All the food mystery staples are duly trotted out, but the soufflé is DOA.

GONE WITH A HANDSOMER MAN

In West’s culinary mystery debut, an amateur pastry chef is the prime suspect in her fiancé’s murder.

After a hardscrabble childhood, Teeny Templeton has a bright future ahead. Engaged to Charleston real-estate mogul Bing Jackson, she’s determined to bake her own wedding cake. But when her cake-making class is cancelled, she returns home to Bing’s McMansion to spot him playing nude badminton with two gorgeous models. After pelting the participants with unripe peaches, Teeny winds up in jail. Miss Dora, Bing’s embittered stepmother, posts her bail and takes her under her wing. Apparently, Bing inherited his late father’s penchant for philandering. Dora, a society interior designer with a passion for pink, installs Teeny in the historic Spencer-Jackson House, which Dora and Bing have been wrangling over since his father’s death. Bing doesn’t show for an attempted make-up date at a local tavern, but while imbibing peach-tinis, Teeny encounters high-school sweetheart Coop O’Malley, who broke her heart when he unexpectedly dumped her for his ex-girlfriend. Coop, a lawyer, undertakes to solve Teeny’s legal problems and, perhaps, her romantic ones. Bing is found dead of gunshot wounds at his home. Teeny was at the scene—someone tased her from behind, and the murder weapon disappeared. Now she’s under suspicion and 24-hour surveillance by police as well as by Bing’s eccentric sister, who has shown up in the motor home she shares with multiple cats to contest Bing’s will, which left everything to Teeny. Money means nothing to Teeny—she wants only to recapture the man who got away, that is if his estranged English aristocrat archeologist wife will let her. Threats, forged documents, a crusty private detective, adorable pooches and the Templeton book of poison-optional desserts are just for starters. The plot is of the “Just when things couldn’t get any worse” variety, but the zaniness seems forced, as does the comedy.

All the food mystery staples are duly trotted out, but the soufflé is DOA.

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-57122-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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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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