Ballard’s latest exercise in nostalgia (Miss Dimple Suspects, 2013, etc.) presents more delightful characters tangled in a...

MISS DIMPLE PICKS A PECK OF TROUBLE

A murder horrifies the residents of a small Georgia town already coping with the deprivations of wartime living.

The blazing hot summer of 1944 is taking a toll on the hardy citizens of Elderberry, who consider themselves lucky to be living in a rural area where they can grow and can their own food. Respected teacher and part-time sleuth Miss Dimple Kilpatrick is picking peaches with her fellow teachers, Charlie Carr and Annie Gardner, when Miss Dimple hears a scream. Only later do they learn that the lovely Prentice Blair has vanished from her job selling produce at the Peach Shed while her somewhat older best friend, Charlie’s sister Delia, was across the road buying some cold soda. When her body is found, her longtime boyfriend, Clay Jarrett, whose family owns the peach farm, is immediately suspected. Prentice and Clay had recently split, partly over her decision to go away to college even though he wanted to marry. In addition, Prentice had been depressed since the recent death of a woman who had been like a mother to her. Miss Dimple is certain that Clay does not have it in him to murder the woman he desperately loved, despite his admission that Prentice had told him she had sex with a man she didn’t name. A woman living in a nearby shack claims she saw the killer and found something that could identify him, but since she thinks that she’s Scarlett O’Hara battling both Yankees and Nazis, only Miss Dimple understands that her testimony might be worthwhile. When she’s found dead as well, Miss Dimple and her friends go all out to discover the identity of Prentice’s lover.

Ballard’s latest exercise in nostalgia (Miss Dimple Suspects, 2013, etc.) presents more delightful characters tangled in a solid mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-03562-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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