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


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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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 story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.


Twenty years after Chloe Davis’ father was convicted of killing half a dozen young women, someone seems to be celebrating the anniversary by extending the list.

No one in little Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, was left untouched by Richard Davis’ confession, least of all his family members. His wife, Mona, tried to kill herself and has been incapacitated ever since. His son, Cooper, became so suspicious that even now it’s hard for him to accept pharmaceutical salesman Daniel Briggs, whose sister, Sophie, also vanished 20 years ago, as Chloe’s fiance. And Chloe’s own nightmares, which lead her to rebuff New York Times reporter Aaron Jansen, who wants to interview her for an anniversary story, are redoubled when her newest psychiatric patient, Lacey Deckler, follows the path of high school student Aubrey Gravino by disappearing and then turning up dead. The good news is that Dick Davis, whom Chloe has had no contact with ever since he was imprisoned after his confession, obviously didn’t commit these new crimes. The bad news is that someone else did, someone who knows a great deal about the earlier cases, someone who could be very close to Chloe indeed. First-timer Willingham laces her first-person narrative with a stifling sense of victimhood that extends even to the survivors and a series of climactic revelations, at least some of which are guaranteed to surprise the most hard-bitten readers.

The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2508-0382-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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