Impressive and often fascinating, but not a success. There's ample evidence that Ondaatje worked diligently, and perhaps for...

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ANIL'S GHOST

The aftershocks of the recent bloody civil war in Sri Lanka, and of doomed efforts to name and remember that afflicted country's ``disappeared,'' are explored with commanding poetic intensity in this striking latest from the Canadian (and Sri Lankan–born) author of (this novel's immediate predecessor) The English Patient (1992).

As he did in that earlier tale, Ondaatje analyzes the effects of political catastrophe on several deeply involved characters brought randomly—and explosively—together. Anil Tissera, a ``forensic anthropologist'' who had emigrated to America and now works for an international Human Rights organization, returns to her homeland to participate in an investigation into suspected mass political murders. She is assigned to work with Sarath Diyasena—a phlegmatic archaeologist whose own political affiliations remain cloudy—and is soon involved in the process of ``restoring'' skeletons officially declared ``prehistoric remains'' (though it's obvious they're the remains of recently deceased victims of torture). Ondaatje's plot is mined with ingenious surprises, but the story’s structure is relentlessly meditative and ruminative—as becomes apparent when it expands to include other principal characters: Sarath's younger brother Gamini, a doctor abducted by rebel insurgents, who shares with Sarath a history of fraternal intrigue and sexual rivalry; Sarath's mentor Palipana, a venerable ``epigraphist'' (i.e., an interpreter of ancient ruins) who has become a blind recluse; and Ananda Udagama, an ``eyepainter turned drunk gempit worker turned headrestorer,'' whose unusual artistry is commandeered in the violent climactic pages. The actions and thoughts of these and several other dramatically conceived characters often exude a hallucinatory power; and as often, unfortunately, drain away the story's immediacy, in capriciously positioned flashbacks burdened with explaining their past lives and present interrelationships. The reader becomes lost in thickets of speculation and reverie.

Impressive and often fascinating, but not a success. There's ample evidence that Ondaatje worked diligently, and perhaps for several years, on Anil's Ghost. But he doesn't seem to have finished it. (First printing of 200,000)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-41053-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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