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THE DEVIL YOU KNEW

A dynamic cast drives this striking, historically rich crime thriller.

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In Cobb’s mystery novel, a reporter aims to prove a wrongfully convicted man innocent by unmasking the actual killer.

People in 11-year-old Billy Tarwater’s Atlanta community are shocked when a young girl turns up missing. Before long, someone has abducted and assaulted three girls, leaving two dead and the other comatose. It’s 1963, the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and the police seemingly want to pin these crimes on Sam Jepperson, a local Black man. Despite a lack of evidence against him, he winds up behind bars. Years later, in 1980, Billy is a family man working at a newspaper as a reporter. He’s convinced that the wrong man sits in prison for the crimes against the girls, and he’s determined to track down the real culprit. He’s not after a story—he’s on a personal mission, as his wife has strong ties to the 17-year-old case. But there’s unmistakable potential for danger, especially if the murderer still walks free. Cobb’s mystery features compellingly drawn characters who draw the reader in. Much of the novel unfolds in 1963 and alternates narrative perspectives between copious people entangled in the crimes; Billy’s investigation dominates the latter half. A White man, he’s faced neither racial injustice nor a sexual assault, but the theme of the destructive effects of discrimination remains strong throughout. Punchy dialogue propels a series of interrogation and interview scenes from the police’s investigation in 1963 (“They put him through the mill. Ground him down like a sorghum kernel”) and Billy’s rounds of questions in 1980. These sequences highlight the alarming differences between the two paths of inquiry, as it’s disturbingly clear that the cops have a preconceived idea as to who’ll be serving time. Although most readers will unravel the mystery well before the end, the chilling denouement packs a punch.

A dynamic cast drives this striking, historically rich crime thriller.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2022

ISBN: 9780578371436

Page Count: 480

Publisher: M G Cobb Books

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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THE BURNING

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

When two police officers stop for a bit of dalliance, screams from the nearby woods introduce them to a puzzling and horrifying murder.

Chuck Skidmore and Mona Kurtz don’t arrive in time to rescue a man who’s being burned at the stake, a sight that will haunt their dreams. Police Chief Kate Burkholder arrives on the scene with her husband, John Tomasetti, an agent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who’ll join her and many other cops in a task force investigating the bizarre murder. Born Amish, Kate ran away from Painters Mill, found her vocation in law enforcement, and eventually came home as the police department’s chief. Over the years, she’s built up some trust with the local Amish community, who generally prefer to keep their problems to themselves. The victim is Milan Swanz, a troubled former schoolmate of Kate’s whom she’s arrested several times. A divorced man with four children, he’d been recently excommunicated by the Amish. Although Milan was far from popular, Kate meets a wall of silence from even her own brother, one of many people who had disputes with the hot-tempered man. Kate’s theory of the crime, based on stories in a book popular with the Amish, is so bizarre that she has trouble believing it herself. When her brother is arrested, she’s removed from the task force but continues to investigate, putting her in the sights of some very determined killers.

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250781116

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2024

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