As usual, Clark plots as generously as her Scandinavian counterparts, though neither the stalwart regular cast nor the...

SNAP JUDGMENT

A third case that adds still more evidence for Los Angeles attorney Samantha Brinkman’s default attitude toward her criminal-defense practice: “I pretty much assume all my clients are guilty.”

Pushed beyond endurance by her manically possessive boyfriend, Roan Sutton, USC freshman Alicia Hutchins voicemails him a Dear John message, but it’s too late: soon after she realizes he’s converted her nude selfies to revenge porn, she’s found in her bathtub with her throat slashed. Would Brinkman & Associates defend Sutton on a possible murder charge? “Not if we were starving and living in Tent City,” Samantha tells Alex Medrano, her investigator. In fact, she’s already lost her chance, for shortly after the LAPD identifies the spurned lover as a person of interest, he too is found dead, an apparent suicide—unless it’s murder, as his mother, Audrey Sutton, says early and often to any media flack who’ll listen. Alicia’s father, noted attorney Graham Hutchins, wants Samantha to defend him against possible homicide charges, but he’d be better off if she could just prevent him from responding to Audrey’s charges in self-destructive ways that stoke the fires of public opinion. Nor is he Samantha’s only problem client. Uber-ganglord Javier Cabazon, to whom she owes a serious favor (Moral Defense, 2016), politely demands that she locate Tracy Gopeck, the primary witness against Cabazon’s nephew for killing a rival gangbanger, so that Cabazon’s goons can liquidate her. It won’t be easy to find someone who’s been taken into protective custody, and even if it were, Samantha can’t condone turning her over to Cabazon’s tender mercies. But it’s as hard to say no to the fearsome Cabazon as it is to stem the tide of public opinion.

As usual, Clark plots as generously as her Scandinavian counterparts, though neither the stalwart regular cast nor the interchangeable suspects are interesting enough to keep up the tension for almost 500 pages.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4599-5

Page Count: 459

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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