A gumshoe with a murky past and a country in peril are prime ingredients of this worthy detective story.



Hartley’s (Lion’s Gate, 2006, etc.) thriller follows a private eye’s simple job of vetting an affluent man’s potential son-in-law—a task that escalates into a murder mystery and a chance to stop a terrorist attack.

PI Ryan Moar, a former cop in North Dakota, is working a case for Carl Ravenstein, a wealthy businessman whose daughter, Tamara, is engaged to Moe Fouzi. Ryan and his wife/partner, Joanna, check up on Moe and find something strange: He doesn’t seem to have a family background. Things take a deadly turn when someone murders both Carl’s ex-wife, Aimée, and a security consultant who was tailing Moe. The two murders, as well as Moe himself, who vanishes, might have a connection to Habib Kadir, a jihadi who’s planning a terrorist strike in America. And Habib has a penchant for blowing up monuments, with his eye firmly set on a much-beloved monument in neighboring South Dakota. Information in the author’s novel comes hard and fast, often beginning with a person being questioned and then, through dialogue, revealing the reason why Ryan or Joanna is there. This creates a stunning pace, cutting to and from scenes at breakneck speed, allowing for the occasional shock: Readers, for instance, learn only later in the story that Ryan and Jacelyn, Carl’s young, coquettish fiancee, have a history. The investigation gets the short end: It’s largely presented by way of the investigators’ interrogations and the resultant conjecture regarding the guilty party’s identity; but Hartley (and the protagonists) knows what should take precedence, as Ryan and Joanna focus their energy on preventing the attack in a searing action sequence near the end. The PI couple’s past, like most of the book’s exposition, is merely touched upon, but what’s there is riveting: They met when Ryan helped Joanna’s son, Gary, who was accused of murder. Hopefully their story, which also includes the murder of Ryan’s first wife, will be further elucidated in the next book, this being the first in a planned series. If all goes well, the sequel will give up on the somewhat disconcerting hint of romantic interest between stepsiblings Gary and Charlene, Ryan’s daughter.

A gumshoe with a murky past and a country in peril are prime ingredients of this worthy detective story.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1458217240

Page Count: 328

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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...


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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