A historically realistic and dramatically enthralling crime story.

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MERLIN AT WAR

From the A DCI Frank Merlin Novel series

An international murder mystery, largely set in London in 1941, that also dramatizes the withering impact of World War II on Europe.

British Capt. Simon Arbuthnot is mortally wounded in Crete when his unit is strafed by German warplanes. As he takes his last breath, he hands a bloody envelope to Lt. Edgar Powell and asks him to ensure its safe delivery. However, bad handwriting and bloodstains obscure the name of the addressee, leaving Powell with a mystery that he feels bound by honor to solve. He turns to DCI Frank Merlin, an old friend, for help. Meanwhile, Arbuthnot’s son and heir, Philip, slowly learns that his father’s business interests were as mysterious as they were vast and potentially the result of unsavory dealings. Merlin goes on to investigate the death of a young woman found in a gruesome condition in a London hotel room. She’s the victim of an illegal abortion gone wrong, and Merlin is quickly able to establish that the physician who botched the procedure is Armand de Metz, a once-prominent surgeon who fled his native France during the Nazi occupation. The doctor is soon found murdered, apparently by a professional killer. Further complicating matters, de Metz was evidently in touch with MI5 agents, promising to deliver information relevant to the war effort, and the deceased girl turns out to have been under suspicion due to her active support of the Irish Republican Army. This is the third installment in author Ellis’ (Stalin’s Gold, 2014, etc.) DCI Frank Merlin series, which not only brings back the titular detective, but also some familiar themes: the danger posed to London by German bombing campaigns, the underground French Resistance to both German occupation and a collaborationist Vichy government, and the moral degradation of a city that lives under the shadow of death. As always, the author displays a penetrating knowledge of the historical period, conjuring an authentic depiction of 1941 London. Overall, the plot is an exceedingly complicated one that will require a reader’s focused attention. Thankfully, though, despite the story’s complexity, it’s all related in a crisp, unclouded prose style.

A historically realistic and dramatically enthralling crime story.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9955667-0-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: London Wall Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2018

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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