Weighing in at a svelte 928 pages, Penzler’s omnibus is equally impossible to pick up and put down.

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THE BIG BOOK OF ROGUES AND VILLAINS

Black Lizard’s latest plus-size anthology, reprinting 72 stories, practically all of them published in the U.S. and U.K. over the past two centuries, is a monument to bad behavior.

With obvious exceptions like Hannibal Lecter and Count Dracula, fictional criminals have rarely attracted the same attention as fictional detectives because they’ve rarely had the same staying power. Even so, veteran anthologist Penzler (Bibliomysteries, 2017, etc.) has assembled a lineup of franchise luminaries likely to quicken the pulse of many a genre fan: Grant Allen’s Colonel Clay, E.W. Hornung’s A.J. Raffles, Thomas W. Hanshew’s Hamilton Cleek, Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin, Clifford Ashdown’s Romney Pringle, K. and Hesketh Prichard’s Don Q, Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu, Frederick Irving Anderson’s The Infallible Godahl and Sophie Lang, O. Henry’s Jeff Peters and Andy Tucker, Jack Boyle’s Boston Blackie, Gerald Kersh’s Karmesian, Edgar Wallace’s Four Square Jane, Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar, Erle Stanley Gardner’s Ed Jenkins, Lester Leith, Paul Pry, and the Patent Leather Kid, Edward D. Hoch’s Nick Velvet, Robert L. Fish’s Kek Huuygens, Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr, Martin Ehrengraf, and John Keller, Max Allan Collins’ Quarry, Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder, and of course Dracula. The most notable omission, mentioned in Penzler’s brief Introduction but unaccountably absent from the table of contents, is Melville Davisson Post’s crooked lawyer, Randolph Mason. Although these franchise entries are naturally of varying quality, many of them mark their villains’ (or their rogues’—Penzler’s conscientious attempt to categorize every single one of these nefarious leads as either one or the other or both seems a pointless exercise) first appearances, giving this collection an added historical interest. Newcomers may want to begin with the most celebrated nonfranchise tales: Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher,” Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” Thomas Burke’s “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole,” Ben Hecht’s “The Fifteen Murderers,” and William Irish’s “After-Dinner Story.” Old hands may note that bad guys can make just as big a splash in a short story as in a long one: the lengthiest item here, Donald E. Keyhoe’s pulp novella The Mystery of the Golden Skull, packs no greater punch than the oldest story of all, one of the shortest, and one of the most shockingly unexpected from its source, Washington Irving’s “The Story of a Young Robber.”

Weighing in at a svelte 928 pages, Penzler’s omnibus is equally impossible to pick up and put down.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-43248-7

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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