With abundant style and a tight, convincing story, Abbott provides a retro thrill ride that transcends its dated roots.

THE SONG IS YOU

A chilling second novel from Edgar-nominated Abbott (Die a Little, 2005) spins the conventions of noir crime fiction into something fierce, fast and fresh.

Gil “Hop” Hopkins is on top of the world. The smooth-talker has parlayed his celebrity-magazine post into a studio publicity gig, giving him access to all the famous names and gorgeous starlets he desires. The year is 1951, and stars like Lana Turner and Robert Mitchum are lighting up the screen. Hop, however, is more involved with the smaller names. B-movie actresses like Barbara Payton keep getting themselves in trouble (Payton’s two lovers brawl publicly over her), and the studio counts on him to make everything nice, or at least keep it out of the press. This he does. But when an African-American actress named Iolene comes to him, scared and desperate, he brushes her off. She’s concerned about an old scandal, the disappearance of the beautiful Jean Spangler two years before. Her body was never found, but Hop and Iolene accompanied her on her last night, which ended at a shady club whose patrons sometimes engage in very rough play. Hop doesn’t want to revisit that night—hushing it up won him his job—but when Iolene goes missing, too, he finds he can’t let it go. Winnowing through the rumors, some of which he planted, makes him face some dark truths, but not before a whiz-bang adventure through Tinseltown’s underbelly. Abbott channels the great pulp authors without aping them. Cain and Chandler are evoked in the rough-and-tumble period language (Iolene is a “colored girl”) and standard noir slang (girls are “knockout[s]” with “endless gams”). But Abbott has her own voice, avoiding the genre’s macho conventions to evoke the young women who live “in a gasp of tension.”

With abundant style and a tight, convincing story, Abbott provides a retro thrill ride that transcends its dated roots.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2007

ISBN: 0-7432-9171-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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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 suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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