A historically astute, skillfully developed crime drama.



A hard-boiled detective story set on the dark streets of London not long after England entered World War II.

In January 1940, 20-year-old Joan Harris, who works for the U.S. Embassy in London, suddenly goes missing and later turns up dead in the river. DCI Frank Merlin is assigned the case, and he’s warned by Assistant Commissioner Gatehouse to tread carefully and not ruffle any diplomatic feathers. But shortly afterward, Johnny Morgan, a chauffeur who also works at the embassy, is found with his throat slit, so Merlin charges headlong into the investigation. He discovers that Morgan’s employment was arranged by his uncle, Morrie Owen, the owner of nefarious nightclubs, such as The Blue Angel, known for prostitution and seedy clientele. Owen has a connection to Arthur Norton, an aide to U.S. Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and a frequent visitor to The Blue Angel. The deeper Merlin digs, the more lurid the case becomes, and he ultimately excavates a treasure trove of extortion, drug trafficking, and sexual secrets. The real-life historical backdrop for the story is Ambassador Kennedy’s insistence on keeping the United States out of the war, much to the approval of those within the British government, who believed that Hitler was someone with whom they could negotiate a peace. Merlin, meanwhile, agrees with Winston Churchill that war was inevitable. This is Ellis’ (Stalin’s Gold, 2015) first installment in a series that revolves around Merlin’s adventures. The author’s deep knowledge of London during this era has the stamp of scholarly rigor, and his gritty portrayal of the city gives the plot a sheen of authenticity. Further, the specter of war, and the intramural wrangling regarding England’s entry into it, adds an ambient volatility to the proceedings. Still, the anchor of the tale is Merlin, a quietly complex character—he lost his wife suddenly, and he ruefully expects the decline of his country, displaying a cynicism that seems to serve him well as a detective. Overall, this is a well-constructed mystery that artfully furnishes just enough information to keep readers invested but not so much as to slacken the suspense.

A historically astute, skillfully developed crime drama.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9929943-8-9

Page Count: 328

Publisher: London Wall Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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


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.


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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