Better detective work than the series kickoff (Arrowood, 2017) and less emphasis on the hero’s amusingly futile rivalry with...

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THE MURDER PIT

William Arrowood, the poor man’s Sherlock Holmes, goes looking for a silent bride and finds a cesspool of corruption.

It’s been six months since "weak-minded" Birdie Barclay married pig farmer Walter Ockwell, and in all that time her parents, insurance clerk Dunbar and singing teacher Martha Barclay, haven’t had one word from her. They just want to know she’s all right, they tearfully assure Arrowood and his sidekick and amanuensis, Norman Barnett. Huffing at the much richer pot Holmes got for solving “The Adventure of the Priory School,” Arrowood relieves the Barclays of a trifling sum and sets off for the Ockwell farm, where he intimates that he’s brought news of a legacy to Birdie but is still prevented from seeing her by Walter Ockwell and his sister, Rosanna, who insist that Birdie isn’t home even though Arrowood can see her signaling him from an upstairs window as he leaves. When a more direct attempt to unite Birdie with her parents fails, Arrowood hunkers down to investigate possible skulduggery at the farm, which seems to employ no one but the kinds of mentally challenged patients the Caterham Asylum deals with. For his pains he’s warned off by Sgt. Root, of the Catford and Lewisham Police, and Barnett is soundly beaten. Edna Gillie, a woman who hints at stories of three dead children, disappears herself soon after Arrowood’s one conversation with her, and he fears that she’s dead, and that she’s not the only one. What has Birdie gotten herself into, and can a man who sets himself apart from Holmes by calling himself “an emotional detective. I try and solve my cases by understanding people” extricate her from the danger?

Better detective work than the series kickoff (Arrowood, 2017) and less emphasis on the hero’s amusingly futile rivalry with Holmes even though his case ends up echoing “The Priory School” in more uncomfortable ways than he could have imagined.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7783-6930-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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