The more gracious the home, the worse the crime in this anthology by a who’s who of mostly golden-age writers.

MURDER AT THE MANOR

Let the guest beware in these 16 reprinted stories, spanning roughly 65 years, set in British country houses.

None but Sherlock Holmes could figure out why a governess’s duties include wearing a specific dress in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Copper Beeches.” In Dick Donovan’s “The Problem of Dead Wood Hall,” a tiny bluish scratch on each of two murder victims is the only indication of foul play. “Gentlemen and Players” features E.W. Hornung’s Raffles in a witty blend of cricket and thievery, and a falling diamond bracelet upsets a desperate plan in W.W. Jacobs’ “The Well.” In G.K. Chesterton’s “The White Pillars Murder,” a notable detective’s protégés learn the difference between listening and hearing, and Ernest Bramah combines an ancient family house, an ancient family curse, and very ancient Druidic ruins in “The Secret of Dunstan’s Tower.” J.J. Fletcher’s “The Manor House Mystery” offers three different solutions to a country magistrate’s murder. A debt-ridden man almost gets away with murder in J.J. Bell’s “The Message on the Sun-Dial”; “The Horror at Staveley Grange” is a haunted room where Sapper (H.C. McNeile) introduces two healthy men who died of heart failure. Anthony Berkeley presents a dead body that disappears twice from a thicket of trees in “The Mystery of Horne’s Copse,” and James Hilton’s “The Perfect Plan” is an almost perfect murder. What should be a hostess’ social triumph ends in humiliation in Margery Allingham’s “The Same to Us.” E.V. Knox’s “The Murder at the Towers” sends up the classic amateur detective who solves the murder of the most disagreeable of houseguests. A nurse spends a night of terror in Ethel Lina White’s “The Unlocked Window”; Nicholas Blake exposes a long-held family secret in “The Long Shot”; and a greedy husband and wife ruin far more than their own lives in Michael Gilbert’s “Weekend at Wapentake.”

The more gracious the home, the worse the crime in this anthology by a who’s who of mostly golden-age writers.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4642-0573-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution...

ROSES ARE RED

Who’s robbing all those banks and kidnapping all those people and killing all those accomplices? It’s somebody calling himself the Mastermind—a comic-book sobriquet that represents everything that’s wrong with the latest installment in Patterson’s Alex Cross franchise.

A young woman robs a bank in suburban Maryland and threatens to kill the manager’s family if she’s kept from meeting her timetable. She’s less than a minute late out the door, so the family dies. So does the robber. So do all the staff at a second bank after somebody tips the police off. Who could possibly be so ruthless? It’s the Mastermind, the evil genius who set up both robberies intending murder from the beginning—even warning the cops the second time. And robbing banks is only the beginning for the megalomaniac, who’s plotting a group abduction worth $30 million and a series of maneuvers that’ll feed his cat’s-paws to the police, or to the fishes. And since the Mastermind likes to see families suffer, he vows to take the war of nerves right to forensic psychologist Cross. But if he wants to ruin the D.C. detective’s life, he’ll have to stand in line, since Cross’s girlfriend Christine Johnson is pulling away from him and his daughter Jannie is suddenly having seizures. Despite his prowess with guns and fists, and his awesome insight into other people’s minds, Cross would be desperate if it weren’t for the timely embraces of FBI agent Betsey Cavalierre, to whom he’ll make passionate love while telling her, “I like being with you. A lot. Even more than I expected.” With an adversary like that, how can the Mastermind prevail?

As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution unclouded by texture, thought, or moral complexity, to produce the speediest tosh on the planet.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-69325-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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