A skillful amateur detective with an impressive to-do list emerges in this inventive series opener.

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Address to Die For

An inherited dream house turns into a nightmare in this debut California mystery.

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald was led to believe her family’s newly acquired 100-year-old American Craftsman home was move-in ready. But there is a major issue in the basement: a dead body. If that isn’t enough to make the home anything but turnkey, there are also holes in floorboards, broken windows, and electrical issues. Two phone calls worsen the situation. The first, to Maggie’s husband, Max, is from his boss telling him to fly to Bangalore immediately. The second is from movers who report the family’s belongings won’t arrive until the next week. Maggie’s organizational skills are put to the test as she gets her sons enrolled in school, immerses herself in her new community, and deals with a house full of detectives and family pets (two cats and a golden retriever) but devoid of furniture. She also makes arrangements to make the home livable, though it’s subjected to ongoing vandalism. When she finds another body, her to-do list includes finding the killer in her tightknit community. Creepiness—a dead squirrel impaled on the porch, an electrical box rigged to catch fire—is well-captured in the novel, as is humor. Maggie is known to compensate with carbs when things go awry, and they often do (cookie-eating punctuates the book). Details are endearing: an older woman’s living room has a doorframe with the faded marks of a growth chart; the McDonalds use sign language to say “I love you.” Maggie’s kids are intriguing, and her new acquaintances eclectic. Feliz is strong at characterization; a strict principal is known for slapping shut the cover of her iPad, and a burly war veteran needs tissues to tell of rescuing a puppy from a dumpster (“I stuffed him in my shirt, fleas and all”). Breaking up the first-person narrative are emails between Maggie and India-based Max, and each chapter begins with a helpful planning suggestion From the Notebook of Maggie McDonald / Simplicity Itself Organizing Services, such as “Sometimes, life gets in the way, and there are other things far more important to attend to than being organized.” Indeed.

A skillful amateur detective with an impressive to-do list emerges in this inventive series opener.

Pub Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60183-664-9

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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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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