This entertaining romantic mystery breaks no new ground but may entice you to plan a trip to Kentucky.

ONE FOR THE ROAD

A reporter meets her long-lost family.

The prolific Ellis, who specializes in Christian romance and mystery, introduces a sassy new heroine in travel writer Jill Curtis, who heads to Kentucky with her videographer, Michael Erickson, to do a story on bourbon. Jill has an ulterior motive for booking them into the Sweet Dreams Bed and Breakfast in Roseville—the inn is owned by Dot Clark, Jill’s grandmother’s cousin, and the two women have been estranged over something that happened back when they were 18. Dot’s husband, Roger, owns Black Creek, a small distillery, and seems to bully his wife when he's at home. At the first distillery Jill and Michael visit, Founder's Reserve, the tour is led by an eighth-generation family member, flirtatious Jamie Shelby, who tells a tale of an old feud with the Cook family—ancestors of Roger Clark. At their next visit, to Black Creek, they find Roger murdered. Nick Harris of the Kentucky State Police, summoned by the local authorities, isn’t happy about Jill’s attempts at sleuthing. But Aunt Dot is thrilled to have Jill around to support her, and her visit affords Jill plenty of time to investigate Roger’s family, some of whom live in the mountains, make a little moonshine, and keep up the family feud. Circled by plenty of suspects, plenty of motives, and two suitors, Jill still inclines to believe the best of people, though that disposition puts her in danger.

This entertaining romantic mystery breaks no new ground but may entice you to plan a trip to Kentucky.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8998-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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 muted yet thrilling multilayered mystery enriched by keen psychological and emotional insight.

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WHEN THE STARS GO DARK

A San Francisco homicide detective traumatized by personal tragedy and the many horrors she's encountered returns to Mendocino, once her childhood sanctuary, only to be drawn into the case of a missing girl and the unresolved mysteries of her own past.

“For as long as I could remember, I’d had reasons to disappear,” Anna Hart muses. “I was an expert at making myself invisible.” Orphaned at 8 and reared in a series of foster homes, this police detective has an unwavering commitment to the cases of missing and murdered children and an uncanny “radar for victims.” Then her own family is shattered by a death she might have prevented. Anna flees to Mendocino, where a foster family once provided not only love, but also survival lessons and where Anna agrees to help a local sheriff—also a childhood friend—as he investigates the case of a teenage girl who seems to have been abducted. But the disappearance of Cameron Curtis recalls for Anna a more distant Mendocino mystery: the vanishing of a childhood friend of hers in 1972. And when two more girls are abducted shortly after Cameron—one of them the real-life Polly Klaas—the stage seems set for a predictable serial killer hunt. But McLain largely avoids that well-trodden path to craft instead a psychological thriller that deftly evokes both the entrancing landscape of the Mendocino hills and the rough terrain of shattered lives. “No one can save anyone,” the haunted Anna laments at the outset, but the novel’s convincing outcome, while grimly realistic, permits her to think otherwise. Most memorable of all are the girls, past and present, who emerge here not as convenient victims but as vulnerable, believable characters.

A muted yet thrilling multilayered mystery enriched by keen psychological and emotional insight.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-23789-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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