The solution is piffle, but that’s appropriate to an outing that’s all piffle—sparkling, sublime piffle.


Forty years after the fact, Albert Campion returns to the scene of his very first crime.

When the designated Visitor to the University of Suffolk Coastal is suddenly mired in scandal, the bishop of St. Edmondsbury needs a replacement posthaste. Since the campus has been built on the site of Black Dudley, the stately country house in which Margery Allingham first introduced Mr. Campion to the world (The Black Dudley Murder, 1929), the bishop’s persuaded to sponsor the ebulliently feckless sleuth, who’s now 70. Mr. Campion responds by giving an anodyne speech to the freshmen, chatting up everyone who crosses his path for three days, and then repairing to Monewdon Hall, the home of his wife’s sister and her husband, just in time to get a phone call summoning him back to campus. Professor Pascual Perez-Catalan, a geochemist appointed to head USC’s Earth Sciences division, has been stabbed in the back, and Detective Superintendent Appleyard, who doesn’t take kindly to Mr. Campion’s interference, figures it’s inevitable anyway and asks him to make discreet inquiries. Another round of circulating among the geochemist’s colleagues and students, from Dr. J.K. Szmodics, head of Languages and Linguistics, and professor Yorick Thurible, head of Arts and Humanities, to Nigel Honeycutt, the mentee who openly attacked Pascual’s politics, and Edwina Meade, Pascual’s nosy cleaner, soon persuades Mr. Campion that “it’s a wonder you haven’t had a murder here long before now.” Was the motive for the don’s death the political causes over which USC students are demonstrating, the bevy of lovers he’d bedded, or the endless jockeying for those precious appointments to use the university’s state-of-the-art 1970 computers? Fans of Ripley’s pastiches (Mr Campion’s War, 2018, etc.) will know better than to worry their heads about the crime and concentrate instead on every nuance of Mr. Campion’s amusingly self-effacing blather, which this time finds its perfect counterpoint in the blather of the academics convinced they’re all smarter than him.

The solution is piffle, but that’s appropriate to an outing that’s all piffle—sparkling, sublime piffle.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8897-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...


Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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