No matter. Readers who love books will love reading about books, the people who love them, the people who kill for them, and...

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BIBLIOMYSTERIES

Indefatigable mystery bookseller/editor Penzler (The Big Book of Jack the Ripper, 2016, etc.) has assembled—wait for it—a collection of 15 stories linking murders to books, originally commissioned between 2011 and 2013 as feuilletons distributed by the Mysterious Bookshop.

Despite the name-brand roster of contributors, this is a very mixed bag, like so many of the bags readers and characters alike bring home from used bookstores. Jeffery Deaver’s tale of government agents bent on assassinating a villainous Mexican bibliophile is ingenious without being memorable. Bookcases crush booksellers to no great effect in Nelson DeMille’s (twisty and lightweight) and William Link’s (a guilty noir pleasure). C.J. Box, Peter Blauner, and Thomas H. Cook all root their tales in the history of World War II: Blauner’s duel between the dying Sigmund Freud and a would-be Third Reich blackmailer has the intensity of a good tennis match; Cook’s counterfactual anecdote makes much of a surprise that won’t surprise most readers; Box’s Western contribution to wartime intrigue defies classification or belief, even if it’s all true. Ken Bruen is tiresomely tough (lots of one-word paragraphs), Andrew Taylor tiresomely literary. Reed Farrel Coleman and Loren D. Estleman recycle familiar formulas with professional briskness; Max Allan Collins’ completion of a Mickey Spillane story inflates the formula without varying it. Laura Lippman, Anne Perry, and David Bell provide promising premises that peter out gracefully and often touchingly. Even the prize here, John Connolly’s Edgar-winning tale of a book lover who stumbles onto the strangest library in the world, is more notable for its lovely proposition than its execution.

No matter. Readers who love books will love reading about books, the people who love them, the people who kill for them, and the people who kill with them—often the very same people.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-458-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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