A fine mystery tale that explores the relatable troubles of a conflicted investigator.

BIRD IN A SNARE

From the The Lord Hani Mysteries series , Vol. 1

In this historical mystery, a murder tests an Egyptian diplomat’s loyalties—to his family, those he serves, and allies he’s made throughout his career.

In the 1300s B.C.E., Abdi-ashirta is a leader in multiple territories that border the Egyptian empire, and his presence there has maintained a fragile peace. His mysterious murder creates regional instability, mistrust, and no shortage of work for diplomat Hani and his scribe, Maya, who are tasked with the investigation. Together, the pair travel extensively to question implicated parties only to uncover deeper scandals, lies, and a distinct unwillingness to incriminate others. A collection of suspects emerges along the way: Aziru, Abdi-ashirta’s son, ascends to power because of his father’s murder; Commissioner Yanakh-amu and Lord Yapakh-addi both have political and monetary motivations to eliminate Abdi-ashirta, but they also have alibis. Complicating matters further is the death of the king of Egypt and his replacement by his son, Akh-en-aten, who immediately begins imposing significant cultural reforms and casting aside long-held alliances; he also has a possible motive for ordering Abdi-ashirta’s murder. Still, Hani’s steadfast loyalty to his family, to his work, and to the kingdom are his constants—until the new reforms put his family at risk. Meanwhile, his eldest son and heir becomes enchanted with Hani’s rival, who works for the new king. Hani’s growing internal struggle is a recurring theme throughout the novel, which is precisely what makes him useful as a diplomat; Holmes succinctly describes his mindset: “You make the mistake of actually caring about the people you deal with.” The author’s background as an archaeologist results in vivid descriptions of the ancient settings, customs, and characters, and he provides a helpful glossary of terms for readers unfamiliar with the setting. He also includes a character list, which is necessary, as the story introduces new players at a sometimes-dizzying pace. The book could have also benefited from more descriptions of the threats that the new king’s cultural reforms pose to his citizens. However, the central mystery contains abundant twists, which lead to a satisfying and surprising conclusion.

A fine mystery tale that explores the relatable troubles of a conflicted investigator.

Pub Date: April 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 425

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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A mystery overflowing with local color, holiday charm, appended recipes, and plans for themed parties.

TWISTED TEA CHRISTMAS

A week before Christmas, Charleston society is shocked by the murder of one of their own.

Tea shop owner Theodosia Browning and her sommelier, Drayton Conneley, are catering a Victorian-themed party at the home of wealthy and beloved society doyenne Miss Drucilla when their client is murdered almost before their eyes, her rings stripped from her fingers, and a valuable Renoir stolen. Theodosia has plenty of experience with murder and a fairly good relationship with grouchy Detective Burt Tidwell. Even though he prefers that she stay out of his investigations, she can’t ignore the pleas of Miss Drucilla’s assistant to investigate and does some snooping between putting on several fabulous Christmas-themed tea parties. Most of Miss Drucilla’s money was earmarked for various charities jockeying for her attention. With her police officer boyfriend out of town, Theodosia finds herself unprotected when her sleuthing apparently attracts the killer’s attention, and she has some narrow escapes. With Drayton as her reluctant sidekick, she uses all her contacts to help dig up some motives. In the end her investigation literally goes to the dogs, who may be the most gifted sleuths of all.

A mystery overflowing with local color, holiday charm, appended recipes, and plans for themed parties.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20086-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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