An entertaining whodunit with a captivating amateur sleuth.



Music and murder lead a 35-year-old doctoral aspirant through a midlife crisis in this mystery series opener.

Larkin Day has left Los Angeles, broke and discouraged, and taken up “temporary” residence in her mother’s guest room in Pratincola, Iowa, a small town outside Cedar Rapids. Floundering in her attempt to finish her dissertation on Chekhov, and unable to secure a job in her chosen field of theater—or any position that will pay her bills—she is taking a break to reevaluate her life. Her mom, Dr. Josephine Day, a college dean, thinks she has found just the right thing to combat Larkin’s ennui. Josephine has arranged with choral director Ed Jackson to add Larkin to the local chorus for an upcoming presentation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony performed by singers and musicians from the Cedar Rapids to Iowa City corridor (the “Corridorchestra”). Less than impressed with this parental suggestion, Larkin nonetheless finds herself attending that evening’s rehearsal. A week later, at the first rehearsal of the entire “megachoir,” piano accompanist Harrison Tucker does not return after the 10-minute recess. As the rehearsal drones on with alto Anni Morgan filling in for the pianist, Larkin leaves early—and discovers Harrison’s crumpled body lying just outside the stage door. And now Dieker’s novel begins to kick into high gear. Beethoven’s Ninth is the ever present musical backdrop to the mystery and is the focus of an engaging—albeit overly detailed—tutorial on the subtle intricacies of the composer’s lengthiest piece, which builds meticulously to its famous “Ode to Joy” conclusion. Larkin, who trained as a theatrical director, views everything through that unique perspective. Despite her millennial angst, she is an amusing and edgy observer of body language as well as the minutiae of rehearsal procedures (“Ben the baritone was the first to sing, Beethoven’s familiar melody filling the auditorium as the megachoir echoed his claim that Freud should get funky, or whatever Freude, schöner Götterfunken meant”). Together with Anni, an intriguing, socially awkward counterbalance to her own more combative nature, Larkin begins to investigate Harrison’s death, convinced he was murdered. Well-scripted dialogue, engaging banter, and a diverse cast keep the light mystery moving at a good clip.

An entertaining whodunit with a captivating amateur sleuth.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73369-195-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Shortwave Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2022

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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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A whodunit upstaged at every point by the unforgettably febrile intensity of the heroine’s first-person narrative.


Emerson’s striking debut follows a Navajo police photographer almost literally to hell and back.

Rita Todacheene sees dead people. Since most of her attempts to talk to someone about her special power while she was growing up on the reservation ended in disaster, she’s tried to keep it to herself during her five years with the Albuquerque Police Department. Her precarious peace is shattered by the death of Erma Singleton, manager of a bar owned by Matias Romero, her common-law husband. Although lazy Detective Martin Garcia has ruled that Erma fell from a highway bridge, her body shattered by the truck that hit her on the roadway below, Erma insists that she was pushed from the bridge. “Help me get back to my baby,” she tells Rita, “or I’ll make your life a living hell.” Since Rita, a civilian employee, has few resources for an investigation, Erma opens a portal that unleashes scores of ghosts on her, all clamoring for justice or mercy or a few words with the loved ones they left behind. The nightmare that propels Rita forward, from snapping photos of Judge Harrison Winters and his wife and children and dog, all shot dead in what Garcia calls a murder-suicide, to revelations that link both these deaths and Erma’s to the drug business of the Sinaloa cartel, is interleaved with repeated flashbacks that show the misfit Rita’s early years on her Navajo reservation and in her Catholic grade school as she struggles to come to terms with a gift that feels more like a curse. The appeal of the case as a series kickoff is matched by the challenges Emerson will face in pulling off any sequels.

A whodunit upstaged at every point by the unforgettably febrile intensity of the heroine’s first-person narrative.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-641-29333-4

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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