FREE TO TRADE

An absolute flop as a thriller, this first novel astounds as an exercise in slowly unfolding boredom. Paul Murray is a novice bond trader at a modest London firm who, apart from carrying fleeting memories of Olympic glory (a runner, he claimed a bronze in the 800 meters), inhabits the stereotypical world of an aspiring financial shark, albeit a shark with pretty tame appetites: In a book populated with severe ethical slackers and cash predators of every stripe, Paul comes off as the whitest of white knights. However, after Paul's colleague and potential inamorata, Debbie Chater, is fished—very dead—from the Thames, the model citizen's globe begins to spin a bit faster. On the trail of a baroque financial swindle that stretched from a phony company in the Dutch Antilles to a sumptuous Vegas casino, Debbie was obviously killed for what she knew. Paul decides that it's his duty to catch her murderer, and from scuzzy New York salesmen to deranged former boyfriends, he suffers from no lack of suspects. Unfortunately, Paul is at base a wuss. His clandestine investigation, when not in pursuit of big, bright red herrings, is just plain silly; sex scenes with this or that leggy business babe are particularly ridiculous. Once the evildoers start threatening to lop off fingers, Paul realizes that he might be out of his depth, but he presses on anyway, determined to solve the mystery and recover the money his firm has lost to the schemers. Ridpath has designs here on pirating some of Tom Wolfe's and John Grisham's corporate spoils, but he simply doesn't possess the talent. He knows the bond markets inside and out, but no amount of pedantry can compensate for slight characterization, clunky dialogue, and a total absence of suspense. Plunging a Boy Scout into an abyss of greed, deceit, and violence is nothing new, but it's rarely this embarrassing. (First printing of 100,000; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-06-017630-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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