It’s hard to remember a time when a damsel was quite so distressed by so many different heavies. The tension, though...

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RANSOM RIVER

Gardiner shelves hard-used series heroine Jo Beckett (The Nightmare Thief, 2011, etc.) in order to put even more wear and tear on an employed, overcommitted California lawyer.

Talk about your bad weeks. First Aurora Mackenzie’s foreign aid agency redefines itself away from her job. Upon her arrival back home in Ransom River, she’s instantly tapped for jury duty in the prosecution of Officer Jared Smith and Officer Lucy Elmendorf for shooting high school student Brad Mirkovic when he interrupted their tryst. Then a pair of masked gunmen break into the courtroom, shoot the judge and announce their intention of taking hostages, whose number of course includes Rory. A SWAT team ends the standoff, but Rory’s nightmare is just beginning, for Detectives Mindy Xavier and Gary Zelinski are convinced that she was in cahoots with the gunmen. Now the cops are watching her every move, waiting for the chance to arrest her for felony murder; the thuggish minions of Brad’s father, shady millionaire Grigor Mirkovic, are demanding that she tell them what really went down in the courtroom; and her manipulative cousin Nerissa and Riss' bullying stepbrother Boone, who’ve made Rory’s life hell ever since the invention of flashbacks, have popped up once more to torment her. Can Rory’s old flame Seth Colder, a former undercover cop now living in L.A., help her dodge the threats to herself and her dog (just as the dog she had in high school was also menaced) and follow the trail to the $25 million cache that’s behind the mayhem?

It’s hard to remember a time when a damsel was quite so distressed by so many different heavies. The tension, though synthetic, is so unrelenting that you’ll cheer when Rory finally walks away from it all.

Pub Date: June 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-95285-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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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