Despite its flaws, this mystery’s winsome gumshoe will likely bring readers back for further installments.

BHRIGU MAHESH, PHD: THE RETURN OF DAMAYANTI

An Indian detective looks into an alleged haunting and winds up investigating a murder in Singh’s (The Witch of Senduwar, 2016, etc.) mystery.

The fact that private investigator Bhrigu Mahesh doesn’t believe in ghosts doesn’t stop him from helping Nataraj Bhakti, who’s certain that his late wife, Damayanti, has returned from the beyond. Bhrigu, a former police inspector, is convinced that he and his friend Sutte will either expose a nefarious plot or prove the existence of ghosts once and for all. Bhakti’s been hearing his wife’s shrill cry at night, and her beloved comb keeps turning up unexpectedly. Bhrigu and Sutte stay at Bhakti’s ancestral home, where several of his relatives reside, including name-calling younger brother Chiranjeev and nosy sister-in-law Premkala. They are, of course, also suspects, as their proximity to Bhakti would make it easy for any of them to stage a haunting, whatever their motives. But before Bhrigu can resolve the case, there’s a murder—someone’s apparently been stoned to death. Now all of Bhakti’s relatives are potential killers, as is Bhakti himself. The PI has already amassed a wealth of information, so he offers to share his data with a local police inspector in exchange for crime-scene details. Together, maybe they can find the culprit—and split Bhakti’s proposed “fat prize” of a reward. Singh’s story is a worthy spin on the Sherlock Holmes formula, as intelligent Bhrigu’s manner is akin to the famous sleuth’s, and first-person narrator Sutte acts as his Watson. The characters are well-rounded—even the murderer is portrayed with sympathy—and often illustrated in bold details, as when someone’s “swarthy complexion…absorbed the light like an opaque object.” Unfortunately, grammatical errors and peculiar phrasing hamper the experience, as when characters are “subjugated to the piercing white noise,” someone has “a loose encounter with a ghost,” or a victim is “badgered...to death.” Still, the protagonist and his pal make a great pair, and the book ends with a quick case that shows how expedient Bhrigu’s deductive reasoning can be.

Despite its flaws, this mystery’s winsome gumshoe will likely bring readers back for further installments.

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4828-8899-7

Page Count: 450

Publisher: PartridgeIndia

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2017

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

BADLANDS

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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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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