Tucker raises the stakes and ramps up the darkness in this series and makes you wonder, and even worry a little about,...

ONLY THE HUNTED RUN

A mass slaughter in the Capitol building sets off this third tense and twitchy installment in the adventures of investigative reporter Sully Carter.

Any Washington, D.C. resident with common sense knows that the nation’s capital is the last place you want to be at the peak of summer, with its swampy air mass and the kind of heat that’s “a hammer [hitting] you in the face.” Nevertheless, Sully is carrying out a routine newspaper assignment beneath the Capitol dome when sounds of gunfire and screaming shatter the doldrums. Sully’s war-correspondent instincts kick in as he weaves around the dead and dying toward the shooting’s source. What he eventually finds is even more horrific: the bound-and-gagged corpse of an Oklahoma congressman with ice picks protruding from both eye sockets. He also hears as the shooter calls 911 and gives his name as Terry Waters before making a clean getaway from police. Things become more bizarre between Waters’ escape and eventual arrest as he seems to adopt Sully, via phone, as his intermediary to authorities. (The gunman finds out that he and Sully have something in common: they both, at very young ages, lost their mothers to violence.) After Waters is indicted, he is committed to D.C.’s notorious St. Elizabeths mental hospital. Sully’s editors dispatch him to Oklahoma for more background on the killer, maybe even a motive. Sully finds all of that and more, far more, than he or anybody else expects, including the reader. What seems at the outset to be an exercise in formulaic “psycho killer” pyrotechnics becomes in Tucker’s hands an ingenious, expectation-trumping mystery that doesn’t scrimp on suspense or shock tactics. Those who have, after this novel’s two predecessors (Murder, D.C., 2015, etc.), become enamored with the embittered but urbane journalist may find less of his complicated personal life here. But they will find plenty more reasons to admire and even like Sully Carter.

Tucker raises the stakes and ramps up the darkness in this series and makes you wonder, and even worry a little about, what’s coming next.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42942-5

Page Count: 277

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable...

TOUGH CUSTOMER

A manhunt for a homicidal stalker reunites an ex-cop and his long-lost daughter, in Brown’s latest thriller (Rainwater, 2009).

Private eye Dodge Hanley, who left the Houston police for Atlanta years before, is summoned back to Texas by his long-ago flame Caroline King, now a successful realtor. Caroline wants Dodge, who once rescued her from an abusive fiancé, to lend his sleuthing skills to find Oren Starks, the man who burst in on her daughter Berry and Berry’s co-worker Ben at Caroline’s lake house near the small town of Merritt. Shooting and wounding Ben, Oren fled, but not before vowing to murder Berry. A dismissed co-worker at the Houston marketing firm where Berry and Ben work, Oren was unhinged by his thwarted efforts to woo Berry and another colleague, Sally Buckland. Dodge (who, unbeknownst to Berry, is her father) and local deputy Ski Nyland join forces to track Oren down. Ski’s call to Sally finds her strangely reluctant to corroborate her previous claim of sexual harassment against Oren, perhaps because Oren has a gun to her head during the call. Despite a leg injury sustained at Caroline’s house, Oren confounds pursuers by somehow managing to be in several places at once. He breaks into a Merritt motel room, fatally wounding a teenager who surprises him there. Sally’s body is found hanging in the closet of Berry’s Houston home. Oren takes an elderly couple hostage in a campground, and kills again before disappearing into the Big Thicket, a treacherous, swampy national park. Brown’s trademark romance spiced with raunch serves her well as she orchestrates two parallel lust stories: Caroline’s and Dodge’s passionate but brief encounter in 1978, and the present frisson between Berry and Dodge’s younger doppelgänger, hard-boiled cop Ski. The narrative, slowed by too many talky scenes and descriptive filler, eventually rewards readers’ patience with a bang-up surprise ending. 

Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable summer read.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6310-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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