A brisk, knowing adventure whose self-reliant but vulnerable heroine takes big risks for her Hollywood boss and stops just...

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SILENT MURDERS

What happens off camera is as dramatic as what’s in the frame when serial murders intrude on Jazz Age Hollywood.

Now that her recent masquerade as heiress (The Impersonator, 2013) has come to a disastrous end, vaudeville veteran Leah Randall is ready to adopt a new identity as Jessie Beckett, script girl in training and personal assistant to Douglas Fairbanks at the silent-film studio he and his wife, Mary Pickford, own and run. Jessie’s tasks are limited to checking script continuity and running errands until a dinner party at the home of director Bruno Heilmann ends in the host’s murder. Then her job description expands to include beating the police to the deceased’s house so she can collect any evidence Mary’s unstable sister, Lottie, left behind. Lottie had a secret affair with Bruno, and Fairbanks and Pickford dread the scandal that might result from the discovery. A more personal loss for Jessie is Esther Frankel, an unwilling witness who’d shared a stage with Jessie’s late mother. But when Jessie comes for tea and the souvenirs Esther promised, she finds the older woman dead from a blow to the head. Working with a conscientious detective and a charming bootlegger she knew from her days of passing for an heiress, Jessie tries to figure out whether and how the two murders are related to two other Hollywood deaths. Accompanied by fresh-faced professional dancer Myrna Williams, who’s trying on a new surname while she attempts to launch a Hollywood career, Jessie follows the trail of her chief suspect through an underworld connection and corruption that may reach high into the local hierarchy to a denouement featuring perhaps one Hollywood icon too many.

A brisk, knowing adventure whose self-reliant but vulnerable heroine takes big risks for her Hollywood boss and stops just short of romance with two men who couldn’t be more different. Only the sequel will tell which one she chooses and who she’ll be next.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05137-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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