Solid characters and Lance’s alluringly grim dreams help distinguish this murder mystery.

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Flight of the Tarantula Hawk

A LANCE UNDERPHAL MYSTERY

Psychic crime-scene photographer Lance Underphal is back. In Scott’s (Dark Side of Sunset Pointe, 2013) latest thriller, this tortured character tries to use his visions to help police find a murderer who’s injecting victims with Botox.

When Lance is called to photograph the scene of a murder, a real estate agent killed by Botox shot into her neck, he realizes he’s already seen this in a vision—a wasp stinging a tarantula with a paralytic venom. Doing what he can to help his cop pal Detective Frank Salmon, Lance combs through his dreams, vague though they might be—the symbolic wasp and tarantula; a potential victim whom Lance can’t see clearly; a killer appearing as a child. Meanwhile, Lance, a tormented psychic plagued with insomnia and migraines, finds solace in hearing and conversing with the voice of his dead wife, Sonja. PI Jake Jacobs, a former SEAL who served with Frank, enters the investigation when he’s hired by Jenny, whose husband, Paul, disappears and is later found dead, also from Botox. Jake eventually locks on to a suspect, the senior vice president of a bank’s HR department, while the police have their eyes on someone else. Lance, meanwhile, provides details as they come to him, but he’s absolutely sure of one thing: The murderer is female. He just has to convince the cops he’s right. Alluding to his previous novel with mentions of “the Rodriguez case” but avoiding unnecessary elaboration, Scott can churn out visually rich passages with ease, particularly later in the story when the visions gradually reveal the killer and become increasingly disturbing. In particular, manifestations of the little girl eventually merge with the wasp and tarantula in a stunning, cringe-worthy scene. Lance is an intriguing protagonist, suffering from his psychic abilities with visions of a killer inside his head but also tortured by the simple fact that he still misses Sonja. Jake, however, ends up with the sauciest morsels: Already in a sexual relationship with Jenny’s mother, he picks up his female suspect at a bar on ladies’ night and later has to convince Jenny that he’s not holding out on her in the search for Paul’s killer. He has the best scene, too, when he tracks still-missing Paul’s phone to a foreclosed home and slowly approaches the door while on the phone with Jenny. However, the killer’s identity may not be a shock—readers will likely spot the link between the first two victims and wonder why the cops didn’t see it sooner.

Solid characters and Lance’s alluringly grim dreams help distinguish this murder mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1940745015

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Telemachus Press

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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