The plot is sound, the action exciting, and the characters resoundingly human.


International spydom meets cutthroat suburban elitism.

After the sudden death of her husband, FBI agent Lina Connerly temporarily moves with her teenage son across the country to Northern California. Her father has also died recently, and she figures she can deal with his house while Rory attends the local public school, giving them both a change of scenery after having lost Fred. The school has all the markers of affluent suburban America: overly involved parents, a ridiculous endowment, and the Wonder Test, an extreme standardized test taken by all the schools in Silicon Valley. Studying such esoteric categories as “Ethicalities” and “Future Functionalities,” students don’t attend any real classes but instead spend all of their time taking seminars that will prepare them for the test. Lina isn’t overly concerned about the school's eccentricities, but when she hears that three students have gone missing in past years only to reappear a week later, underfed and with their heads shaved, her spider sense begins to tingle. Having spent her FBI career in foreign counterintelligence, she can’t resist a mystery. Between pinging phones, following suspects, and staging interrogations, Lina eventually approaches the truth—and danger. When Rory’s girlfriend disappears on the eve of the Wonder Test, Lina and Rory must find her. Appealingly, all of this happens as Lina navigates her own grief, comes to terms with the way she has allowed her job to consume her, and faces the fact that Rory shares her interest in intrigue. The overlay of international spycraft on suburban California, whose shiny facade conceals the most heinous of sins and vanities, is surprisingly effective. Richmond also has fun by including a question from the Wonder Test at the beginning of each chapter, emphasizing the ridiculously competitive world of affluent high schools.

The plot is sound, the action exciting, and the characters resoundingly human.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5850-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A whodunit upstaged at every point by the unforgettably febrile intensity of the heroine’s first-person narrative.


Emerson’s striking debut follows a Navajo police photographer almost literally to hell and back.

Rita Todacheene sees dead people. Since most of her attempts to talk to someone about her special power while she was growing up on the reservation ended in disaster, she’s tried to keep it to herself during her five years with the Albuquerque Police Department. Her precarious peace is shattered by the death of Erma Singleton, manager of a bar owned by Matias Romero, her common-law husband. Although lazy Detective Martin Garcia has ruled that Erma fell from a highway bridge, her body shattered by the truck that hit her on the roadway below, Erma insists that she was pushed from the bridge. “Help me get back to my baby,” she tells Rita, “or I’ll make your life a living hell.” Since Rita, a civilian employee, has few resources for an investigation, Erma opens a portal that unleashes scores of ghosts on her, all clamoring for justice or mercy or a few words with the loved ones they left behind. The nightmare that propels Rita forward, from snapping photos of Judge Harrison Winters and his wife and children and dog, all shot dead in what Garcia calls a murder-suicide, to revelations that link both these deaths and Erma’s to the drug business of the Sinaloa cartel, is interleaved with repeated flashbacks that show the misfit Rita’s early years on her Navajo reservation and in her Catholic grade school as she struggles to come to terms with a gift that feels more like a curse. The appeal of the case as a series kickoff is matched by the challenges Emerson will face in pulling off any sequels.

A whodunit upstaged at every point by the unforgettably febrile intensity of the heroine’s first-person narrative.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-641-29333-4

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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