THE DEAD DON'T WAIT

The improbably and delightfully humorous protagonist moves the story to a surprising conclusion.

A cowardly assassin’s lust keeps him in constant trouble.

April 1555. While the Catholic Mary sits on the English throne, former cutpurse Jack Blackjack (A Missed Murder, 2018, etc.) is working for John Blount and his friends, who plot to make Elizabeth queen. Although he’s a paid assassin with a nice little house and a servant, Jack spends most of his time dallying with wenches in taverns. Forced into making a small wager by trickster moneylenders, Jack soon sees the amount he owes rise and the threats escalate. He’s distracted by the lovely Cat, whom he meets in a tavern. When he gets her home, her accomplice, Henry, appears and threatens him, but he disarms the pair by telling them that their act will not fool most people. Jack is almost pleased when Coroner Sir Richard of Bath arrives and accuses him of murdering the priest Father Peter in a small village outside London. The priest had a wife and children from the period when King Henry’s religion ruled, but once Mary ascended the throne, the priests were given a choice of renouncing their wives or being expelled from the church. Jack accompanies Sir Richard to the village, where Jack’s old enemy Master Atwood had accused him of the murder, in order to examine the body and find the real killer. By now, the body’s been moved and evidence destroyed by the priest’s widow, who’d followed her husband to his new posting desperate for his help. His refusal forced her to work in the local tavern and share the tavern-keeper’s bed. Father Peter is described alternately as a wonderful man and a priest who took advantage of women. Sir Richard, who admits he’s the priest’s brother, is sure he was an honorable man. Jack is no great thinker, but native cunning and the fear of death move him to investigate the murder for his own sake.

The improbably and delightfully humorous protagonist moves the story to a surprising conclusion.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78029-120-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Creme de la Crime

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

BADLANDS

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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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