Too many red herrings and not enough good red meat.



Who is poisoning the politicians of London’s Reform Club? Surely not its celebrity chef, Alexis Soyer, whose spotless kitchen is a miracle of Victorian modernity—those faucets with instant hot water! Those gas ranges with adjustable flames! It sounds like another case for famed investigative duo Avery and Blake.

It’s with a sense of panic that Capt. William Avery, the Watson to Jeremiah Blake’s Sherlock Holmes, probes a mysterious death at England’s renowned, gentlemen-only Reform Club in 1842. Accidentally present at one of Soyer’s lavish private dinners and thus witness to the agonizing demise of a Whig Member of Parliament, Avery is asked by the club to pursue a discreet investigation, unfortunately without Blake (who has temporarily disappeared) to help him. Soon, upright but plodding military hero Avery is floundering, faced with many—too many—cooks and other suspects, from Russian spies plotting against a crucial upcoming diplomatic banquet at the club to Soyer’s rivals, his suppliers, factions within the club, and feuders in the kitchen. This is Carter’s (The Infidel Stain, 2016, etc.) third Avery and Blake adventure, and once again the author revels in her research, evoking another Dickensian vista of Victorian London where the food is adulterated by chemicals, arsenic is an everyday tonic, the rich dine like kings, and debtors languish at the miserable Marshalsea Prison. Again, though, the originality and derring-do which marked the sleuthing duo’s first appearance—in Colonial India, in The Strangler Vine (2014)—are absent, replaced by an overcrowded cast of characters, an excess of speculative to-and-fro, and a disappointing villain. Readers sensing predictability can, however, console themselves with luscious accounts of period foodie feasts: “Tender cubes of hare in a blood sauce…a small, flaky pastry cup of mackerel roe and little molded meat jellies of rice and lamb’s tails."

Too many red herrings and not enough good red meat.

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17169-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet