Sympathetic characters vividly detailed, but trapped in action overload.


From veteran Vida (Between Sisters, 1996, etc.), a tale with more twists and turns than Pacific Route One: a scarred man and a woman are brought together by a suicide that looks suspiciously like murder.

When older sister Alice Miller calls Ellie Holmgren, a divorced accountant still mourning the sudden death of her young son, Jamie, and tells Ellie that she’s just killed her husband Morty, Ellie rushes over to help. Alice seems distraught and vague about what happened, but when Ellie sees the gun in Morty’s hand, and Alice confesses that Morty has been physically abusive to her, Ellie decides to tell the police it was a suicide. The detective in charge believes her, but Teo Domingos, his assistant, doesn’t. A Vietman vet, Teo is still troubled by his war experiences, so when he presses for a full investigation of Morty’s death, it’s suggested he’s ill and should take a leave. He has other baggage—he’s still wounded by his divorce from former dancing girl and would-be star, Bonnie. When he begins his own investigation of Morty’s death, he meets up again with Ellie; the two are attracted and become lovers. But Teo is all but commandeered by his own dysfunctional family. A drug-addicted sister abandons her son, and Teo must take care of him; another sister leaves her husband and moves into Teo’s house; and ex-wife Bonnie attempts a comeback. While Teo sorts out his family trouble and his feelings for Ellie, she has to take care of Alice, now hospitalized for a heart condition. When Alice escapes from the hospital, she insists Ellie take her back to the old family farm north of Los Angeles. There, with Ellie’s help, she begins fixing the house and confesses long-hidden secrets. Teo will do more sleuthing and some housecleaning of his own before heading north.

Sympathetic characters vividly detailed, but trapped in action overload.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7432-1302-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...


Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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