The hero, whose memorably disinhibited dialogue merely exaggerates the qualities of many another hard-boiled shamuses,...


Noir specialist Wiley (Monument Valley, 2017, etc.) auditions yet another hero with an apparently crippling pair of twists: Getting shot in the head has left him with disinhibition and autotopagnosia.

Three years ago, Sam Kelson, of the Chicago PD narcotics squad, went undercover to nail a teenage distributor called Bicho. All the doomy feelings Kelson and his CPD partner, Greg Toselli, shared with each other in advance turned out to be right on the money, and when the attempted bust ends, Bicho, ne Alejandro Rodriguez, has been shot dead and Kelson nearly so. Pulled back from the brink by his partner’s timely aid, Kelson hangs out his shingle as a private eye who sometimes can’t recognize his own body parts, still haunted by the question of who shot first, he or the kid. A distraction arrives in the person of Trina Felbanks, a hot-looking woman who wants Kelson to stop her brother, pharmacist Christian Felbanks, from dealing his product to lowlifes. The distraction factor here turns out to be monumental: When Kelson goes to the Lakewood Pharmacy, Raima Minhas, the druggist on duty, tells him that Felbanks isn’t in, and when he goes to Felbanks’ home, he finds him shot dead, with the police about to storm the place and arrest Kelson for his murder. It’s a setup, of course, and although Kelson’s soon out on the street, things only get worse when his client turns out to be (duh) an imposter and Raima Minhas is found fatally overdosed in Kelson’s bed. Clearly, someone’s out to get him good. Who is the nemesis the client, who keeps popping up to warn Kelson that more trouble is on the way, calls Mengele? The Chicago woods are so full of lowlifes that Kelson hardly knows where to begin looking. Working with an improbable team that includes ex-cop DeMarcus Rodman and Francisca Cabon, Bicho’s girlfriend, he wades through a growing pile of corpses to a climactic revelation savvy readers will have seen coming.

The hero, whose memorably disinhibited dialogue merely exaggerates the qualities of many another hard-boiled shamuses, deserves a stronger case.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8981-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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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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