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

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MR CAMPION'S VISIT

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.

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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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