An ebullient mashup/revision/sequel perfect for knowing readers who don’t mind (spoiler) missing the Falcon yet again.

READ REVIEW

THE BIG MAN'S DAUGHTER

Dashiell Hammett’s The Dain Curse is only the first in a hall of playfully refracting mirrors that also reworks motifs from The Maltese Falcon and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Left alone by the death of her racketeer father, Cletus Gaspereaux (Fitzstephen's version of Casper Gutman, repurposed here, like most of the cast, from The Maltese Falcon), and the demise or imprisonment of his unsavory associates, Rita Gaspereaux (Rhea Gutman) has to survive on her own. When her attempt to bury her father quietly in San Francisco backfires in a spectacular way, she’s left with no money and no consolation outside the pages of Dorothy G., Kansas, a novel that follows 18-year-old Dorothy Gale, Rita’s model and alter ego, around Paris, where her job as a waitress brings her up against private eye Paul Darnell. Desperate, Rita agrees to join forces with Evie LeFabre (Effie Perine), the secretary to Pinkerton operatives Sam Hammett (Sam Spade) and Mike Arnette (Miles Archer), who’s plotting to recover the real Maltese Falcon for which the Russian Count Keransky (General Kemidov) substituted the fake at the center of the action in Hammett’s novel and Fitzstephen’s earlier spinoff, Hammett Unwritten (2013). Although Rita plans to run off with the bankroll Evie’s raised to finance her search, Evie and professor Ted Bowman, her cousin and partner, aren’t nearly as naïve as they seem, and the triple partnership swiftly devolves into a battle of wits.

An ebullient mashup/revision/sequel perfect for knowing readers who don’t mind (spoiler) missing the Falcon yet again.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64506-019-2

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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Bohjalian manages to keep us guessing and turning pages until the very end.

THE RED LOTUS

In Bohjalian’s (The Flight Attendant, 2018, etc.) breathless thriller, the death of an American bicyclist in Vietnam sets off a race to avert further catastrophe.

Alexis, a doctor at an unnamed university hospital in Manhattan, met Austin six months ago when he came into her ER with a bullet in his arm, fired by a junkie in a bar where Austin and a chance acquaintance, Douglas, were playing darts. Austin works as a fundraiser at the same hospital. In fact, his office, significantly as we will learn, is near a rodent research lab. The present action takes place over a countdown clock of 10 days, beginning in Vietnam, where the new couple is on a bike tour. Austin goes for a solo ride, telling Alexis he wants to pay respects by visiting the locations where his uncle was killed and his father wounded during the war. When he doesn’t return, Alexis goes out looking for him, finding a few packets of energy gel that we already know Austin dropped on the road while being abducted—by Douglas. Pressing Austin for information, Douglas drives a dart into Austin’s hand. Vietnamese police discover Austin’s body and a post-mortem concludes that he was killed in a hit-and-run collision. While identifying the body, though, Alexis notices the wound on Austin’s hand and suspects foul play. Back in New York, she hires Ken, a PI, to investigate. Quang, a Vietnamese police captain, suspects that Austin was a smuggler, but of what? Alexis soon learns that Austin had lied about many things, not least his true mission in Vietnam. What characters learn, and when, is critical. Abetted by shifting points of view, seemingly disparate elements eventually converge to create a burgeoning sense of dread. Italicized, anonymous first-person comments, interspersed throughout, cite the long history of rats as quickly evolving plague carriers—most recently, of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Among many tantalizing questions: Austin’s former boss Sally is Douglas’ lover—where do her loyalties lie? In fact, whose side is Douglas on? And what is in those packets?

Bohjalian manages to keep us guessing and turning pages until the very end.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54480-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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