This series kickoff from MacRae (Wilder Rumors, 2007, etc.) is chock-full of intriguing characters and Highland charm. Maybe...

PLAID AND PLAGIARISM

Four ladies who’ve purchased a bookshop in the Scottish Highlands find murder messing up their plans.

Illinois native Janet Marsh is no stranger to Inversgail, a charming west Highland coastal village where she’s owned a vacation home for many years. After her husband, Curtis, had an affair with one of his graduate students, Janet got the house free and clear in the divorce proceedings. Now she and her Scottish friend Christine Robertson, who's lived in Illinois for decades and whose parents live in Inversgail, have settled in the town, along with Janet’s 38-year-old daughter, Tallie, and her friend Summer, planning to run the bookstore along with a tea room and a B&B. For some reason Janet hasn't been able to get into her house, though she gave the real estate agent who's been renting it out plenty of notice, and when she strolls over to take a look, she sees the kitchen piled high with reeking garbage. But that’s not the worst of it. The body of Una Graham, the local agony aunt and troublemaker, is soon found in the garden shed with a sickle in her neck. Neither the local constable nor the specialists sent in have much to say. So the four ladies decide to do some sleuthing on their own. Janet’s realtor thought Una was persecuting her and was the one who dumped the garbage. Janet’s next-door neighbor, a famous and self-centered author of mysteries, had his own problems with Una. And when they find a cache of threatening letters probably written by Una hidden in the unfinished tea room, they realize she must have had lots of enemies. Their investigation turns up many sad stories that could provide motives for murder. Now they just have to find the right one before the killer strikes again.

This series kickoff from MacRae (Wilder Rumors, 2007, etc.) is chock-full of intriguing characters and Highland charm. Maybe a little too full: it could have done with some judicious pruning.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-256-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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