The author saves a few surprises for the end in this enjoyable art mystery.

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Death on Canvas

From the The Jessie O'Bourne Art Mysteries series , Vol. 1

A murder in the small Montana town of Sage Bluff reignites an investigation into the decades-old disappearance of two valuable Thomas Moran paintings.

Artist and debut author Cherry puts down her paintbrushes long enough to deliver a whodunit. Modern-day drug trafficking, stolen artworks, a 1918 murder witnessed by then-11-year-old John Running Bear at rural Montana’s Benedict’s Mission School for Native Americans, and a large cast of players are woven together, providing unifying threads back and forth between 1918 and the present. Jessie O’Bourne, a successful, 30-something artist, returns to her hometown (with her constant and cantankerous companion, Jack, a large, orange tomcat) to judge an art contest. When she pulls her old pickup truck to the side of the road to sketch some pastoral scenes, she discovers a limp and badly beaten young woman, Amber Reynolds, dumped and hidden among bales of hay next to her father’s barn. And so begins a series of murders that baffles the Sage Bluff police and questions the integrity of almost every character in this tale. Add in two romantic interests for Jessie (local Sgt. Russell Bonham, with whom she has a long, complicated back story, and FBI agent Grant Kennedy from the bureau’s art theft division), along with a few nicely placed misdirections, and the intricate story moves along at a fast clip. Cherry brings her artistic expertise and perceptions to the mystery genre—Jessie sees the world in vibrant splashes of color waiting to be recreated on canvas—and offers a bit of art history along the way. While the stolen paintings at the center of this well-plotted narrative are fictional, Moran was a real landscape artist with a distinguished career. His celebrated Rocky Mountain works helped lead to the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Cherry’s capable writing, however, deserves better copy editing. A typical misstep reads: “He parents are sure she it was probably her iPad.” And Chapter 5 is subtitled: “O’Bourne’s ranch, present day,” when it is in fact set in the sheriff’s office. A second Jessie O’Bourne novel is on the way.

The author saves a few surprises for the end in this enjoyable art mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5238-2911-8

Page Count: 418

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2016

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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