Long before the end, the sorely tried heroine realizes, “I can’t trust anyone.” Neither can the expertly manipulated reader.

THE LYING ROOM

Having ended the saga of forensic psychologist Frieda Klein on a suitably harrowing note (Day of the Dead, 2018), French produces a stand-alone that’s just as suspenseful, especially because there’s no franchise heroine whose survival is assured.

Summoned by a peremptory text to her lover’s Covent Garden pied à terre the morning after they’ve enjoyed an assignation as satisfying as it is secret, Neve Jennifer Connolly finds Saul Stevenson bashed to death with a hammer. At the point of dialing 999, Neve takes a moment to think what the news of her affair and her inevitable involvement in the police inquiry will do to her husband, mostly jobless painter/decorator/illustrator Fletcher Connolly, their two young sons, Rory and Connor, and mainly their daughter, Mabel, a child with a troubled teen history who’s just now packing her things to move to university—and then decides on a completely different plan of action. She removes every trace that she’s ever been in the place, scrubs it clean of her fingerprints (and everyone else’s), then goes back home, returns to her domestic rounds, and is lying in bed next to Fletcher that night before she’s realizing that she’s left a unique and easily identified bangle bracelet at the flat. That’s only the first of many twists best left to readers to discover as French ramps up the nightmare sense of claustrophobia that dogs Neve’s every movement and intensifies each pang of guilt and second-guessing. Neve is swiftly entangled in a thicket of lies to DCI Alastair Hitching; to her co-workers at Sans Serif, the partnership Saul’s firm Redfern Publishers took over; to Saul’s wife, Bernice, who confides in Neve that she thinks her husband’s been having an affair and asks her to look out for who his partner might have been; and to the very family she’s straining her every nerve to protect.

Long before the end, the sorely tried heroine realizes, “I can’t trust anyone.” Neither can the expertly manipulated reader.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267672-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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