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

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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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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