As usual, Beaton conceals any number of surprises behind her trademark wry humor.

BEATING ABOUT THE BUSH

A most unusual suspect helps a detective solve a case.

The engineering firm Morrison’s has hired Agatha Raisin and her assistant, Toni Gilmour, to investigate a case of industrial espionage after a mysterious fire at their factory in the Cotswolds. On their way home, they spot a disembodied leg in the woods and recognize its shoe and stockings as those of Mr. Morrison’s secretary, Mrs. Dinwiddy. They call the police but feel like fools when the limb is revealed as fake. Many circumstances seem unusual back at Morrison’s, where no one seems to do much and the factory that’s supposed to be producing battery packs for electric cars turns out to be in Poland instead. Agatha’s favorite employee at Morrison’s turns out to be Wizz-Wazz, a donkey belonging to Morrison’s wife, even though she attacks after Toni whacks her on the nose. After Mrs. Dinwiddy is found dead at the stable, the police are ready to write it off as an accidental death at the donkey’s hooves. But Agatha’s certain the obviously traumatized Wizz-Wazz is innocent. When Sir Charles Fraith, Agatha’s longtime friend and sometime lover (The Dead Ringer, 2018, etc.), accompanies her to the factory, he points out actual horses’ hooves that are being used as ashtrays. The fact that one of them has been scrubbed suspiciously clean suggests that Wizz-Wazz was framed. Agatha, devastated to learn of Charles’ engagement to a wealthy, unattractive young woman, continues her investigation into what now seems to be a fake factory and consoles herself with a romance with Chris Firkin, who rents a space from Charles to work on converting cars to electricity. Agatha starts a PR campaign to save Wizz-Wazz while working on the difficult and ultimately dangerous case.

As usual, Beaton conceals any number of surprises behind her trademark wry humor.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-15772-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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Perhaps too much ingenuity for its own good. But except for Jeffery Deaver and Sophie Hannah, no one currently working the...

THE SENTENCE IS DEATH

Fired Scotland Yard detective Daniel Hawthorne bursts onto the scene of his unwilling collaborator and amanuensis, screenwriter/novelist Anthony, who seems to share all Horowitz’s (Forever and a Day, 2018, etc.) credentials, to tell him that the game’s afoot again.

The victim whose death requires Hawthorne’s attention this time is divorce attorney Richard Pryce, bashed to death in the comfort of his home with a wine bottle. The pricey vintage was a gift from Pryce’s client, well-to-do property developer Adrian Lockwood, on the occasion of his divorce from noted author Akira Anno, who reportedly celebrated in a restaurant only a few days ago by pouring a glass of wine over the head of her husband’s lawyer. Clearly she’s too good a suspect to be true, and she’s soon dislodged from the top spot by the news that Gregory Taylor, who’d long ago survived a cave-exploring accident together with Pryce that left their schoolmate Charles Richardson dead, has been struck and killed by a train at King’s Cross Station. What’s the significance of the number “182” painted on the crime scene’s wall and of the words (“What are you doing here? It’s a bit late”) with which Pryce greeted his murderer? The frustrated narrator (The Word Is Murder, 2018) can barely muster the energy to reflect on these clues because he’s so preoccupied with fending off the rudeness of Hawthorne, who pulls a long face if his sidekick says boo to the suspects they interview, and the more-than-rudeness of the Met’s DI Cara Grunshaw, who threatens Hawthorne with grievous bodily harm if he doesn’t pass on every scrap of intelligence he digs up. Readers are warned that the narrator’s fondest hope—“I like to be in control of my books”—will be trampled and that the Sherlock-ian solution he laboriously works out is only the first of many.

Perhaps too much ingenuity for its own good. But except for Jeffery Deaver and Sophie Hannah, no one currently working the field has anywhere near this much ingenuity to burn.

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267683-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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THE BLACK ECHO

Big, brooding debut police thriller by Los Angeles Times crime-reporter Connelly, whose labyrinthine tale of a cop tracking vicious bank-robbers sparks and smolders but never quite catches fire. Connelly shows off his deep knowledge of cop procedure right away, expertly detailing the painstaking examination by LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch of the death-scene of sometime junkie Billy Meadows, whom Bosch knew as a fellow "tunnel rat" in Vietnam and who's now o.d.'d in an abandoned water tunnel. Pushing Meadows's death as murder while his colleagues see it as accidental, Bosch, already a black sheep for his vigilante-like ways, further alienates police brass and is soon shadowed by two nastily clownish Internal Affairs cops wherever he goes—even to FBI headquarters, which Bosch storms after he learns that the Bureau had investigated him for a tunnel-engineered bank robbery that Meadows is implicated in. Assigned to work with beautiful, blond FBI agent Eleanor Wish, who soon shares his bed in an edgy alliance, Bosch comes to suspect that the robbers killed Meadows because the vet pawned some of the loot, and that their subsequent killing of the only witness to the Meadows slaying points to a turned cop. But who? Before Bosch can find out, a trace on the bank-robbery victims points him toward a fortune in smuggled diamonds and the likelihood of a second heist—leading to the blundering death of the IAD cops, the unveiling of one bad cop, an anticipated but too-brief climax in the L.A. sewer tunnels, and, in a twisty anticlimax, the revelation of a second rotten law officer. Swift and sure, with sharp characterizations, but at heart really a tightly wrapped package of cop-thriller cliches, from the hero's Dirty Harry persona to the venal brass, the mad-dog IAD cops, and the not-so-surprising villains. Still, Connelly knows his turf and perhaps he'll map it more freshly next time out.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 1992

ISBN: 0-316-15361-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1991

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