Marlowe’s 11th case is short on sleuthing but long on theatrical travails and backstage bitchery.

THE RECKONING

The onstage tragedy in Christopher Marlowe’s new play is rivaled by dark offstage mysteries swirling around him.

1592. Problems plague Kit Marlowe’s new theatrical project from the start. At the elderly Queen Elizabeth’s insistence, Marlowe’s been saddled with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a troupe of inexperienced actors. His decision to produce his friend and housemate Thomas Kyd’s play The Spanish Tragedy is rejected, leading to a difficult conversation with Kyd and the harder challenge of writing a new play. Marlowe comes up with The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England. John Foxe, one of his actors, is found dead with a knife sticking out of him in the whorehouse of Mistress Isam. Moll, the sweet blonde prostitute who serviced Foxe, is both inconsolable and unhelpful in Marlowe’s efforts to get some insight into the killing, but the sometime sleuth is determined to learn more. Things take an even darker turn when Moll dies one cold night while on the job. The details her grief-stricken friend Jane lays out are murky, and Jane's description of Moll’s last client is too generic to be helpful. Meanwhile, the show must go on. Rigorous rehearsals alternate with Marlowe’s attempts to investigate the two recent deaths. The pressure on Marlowe to finish the announced play is alleviated when friendly rival Will Shaxsper (sic) provides some pages he’s able to incorporate. But more murders deepen the mystery and challenge Marlowe further.

Marlowe’s 11th case is short on sleuthing but long on theatrical travails and backstage bitchery.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78029-129-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Creme de la Crime

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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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This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

THE SCORPION'S TAIL

Past and present collide on a trail of death in the second in the authors’ Nora Kelly series, begun with Old Bones (2019).

When a local sheriff investigates the illegal activity of relic hunters in an abandoned, middle-of-nowhere New Mexico gold-mining town called High Lonesome, he discovers a mummified corpse and a fabulous cross of gold. The discovery is on federal land, so the FBI gets involved. Special Agent Corrie Swanson would have liked a juicier assignment than checking out some old bones in the high desert, but she has a degree in forensic anthropology, and she’s a rookie. She persuades a reluctant Dr. Nora Kelly, senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to help puzzle out what happened to the man, as it’s unclear whether a crime has been committed. Forensics determine that the gold is slightly radioactive, and there’s a pack animal skull with a bullet hole. And by the looks of the decades-old corpse, the poor man suffered a horrible death. High Lonesome is on the Jornada del Muerto, or Dead Man’s Journey, the bleak and dismal trail that connected Mexico City and Santa Fe during Spanish colonial rule. The authors are expert plotters and storytellers with smart, engaging characters—Kelly is an experienced pro who thinks Swanson “looked very much the rookie.” Newbie Swanson had barely passed her firearms qualification, and being a lousy shot may bring tragic consequences and a guilty conscience. Luckily, Sheriff Watts has practiced his quick draw since he was a preschooler. Meanwhile, some of those relic hunters are dangerous men searching for an object—not the gold—unknown to Kelly and Swanson. To a descendant of the dead man, “most people would have thought his precious item fit only to line a henhouse with.” Expect nice twists, hairy danger, and good old-fashioned gunplay.

This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4727-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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