To some extent a retread, but who cares ? This is lurid and fascinating pop entertainment. Nobody did it better.

OMERTA

The final volume of Puzo's sensationally popular Mafia trilogy (after The Godfather, 1969, and The Last Don, 1996), completed shortly before his recent death, explores in characteristically slam-bang fashion the consequences of a violation of the Sicilian `code of silence` (omerta) on which Mafia security and power are based.

The flaws are easy to spot: generic characters, middling dialogue, overfamiliar narrative situations and twists, and—especially in this installment’s expository opening pages—an overreliance on summary that retards the story's pace and makes us perversely eager for some salutary slaughter. Puzo doesn't disappoint, in the tangled tale of the legacy bequeathed by venerable Don Raymonde Aprile, who had forsworn criminal activities and built a `legit` banking empire. When the Don is murdered, his presumably respectable heirs (a high-powered woman attorney, a TV network executive, a stiff-necked West Point officer, and their adopted `cousin,` a pasta mogul) are drawn into a fabulously plotted crossfire of intrigue, betrayal, and murder. Also implicated: a seemingly straight-arrow FBI agent (`the man who broke up the Mafia` in New York City), the importunate crime boss who thinks he’s pocketed him, a cheerful party girl whose list of lovers includes several criminal bigwigs, and a corrupt (and murderous) black woman police commissioner. The surprises keep coming as the body count increases, and Puzo expertly steers the plot toward an agreeably bloody climax (`the Macaroni Massacre`). There are also such incidental pleasures as a pair of nonidentical-twin brother assassins, a courtly drug-lord who aims to build a defensive nuclear arsenal, and several wry Mafioso aperçus (`After you decide to kill a man, never speak to him. It makes things embarrassing for both of you`).

To some extent a retread, but who cares ? This is lurid and fascinating pop entertainment. Nobody did it better.

Pub Date: July 7, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-50254-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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