LEONARDO'S BICYCLE

Conspiracy, misdirection, and paranoia intertwine deliriously in this Pynchonesque roman noirwhich won 1994's Latin American Dashiell Hammett Awardby the popular Mexican author of such distinctive mystery novels as The Shadow of the Shadow (1991) and Four Hands (1994). Like Dickens, Taibo sets vividly described characters in manic motion, challenging readers to decipher what they're up to and how their separate pursuits are interconnected. To wit: Mexican mystery writer JosÇ Daniel Fierro (from Life Itself, 1994), an aficionado of televised US Women's basketball, interrupts the novel he isn't writing to investigate an outrage perpetrated upon the young athlete he has adored from afar; diminutive crime reporter Antonio Amador (a real historical figure) survives by his wits and his cojones in 1920s Barcelona, during labor unrest and a looming general strikeand keeps bumping heads with notorious anarchist Angel del Hierro (who may be the grandfather of author Fierro, who is reimagining Amador's adventures); and Jerry Milligan, a CIA operative who survived the fall of Saigon, finds himself summoned to Mexico City by an old compatriot whose criminal demands have something to do with the story Fierro is, alternately, living and reshaping. Behind it (and them) all lurks the protean figure of Leonardo da Vinci, whose documented conception of the bicycle400 years before its invention''had demonstrated the impossibility of the realm of the impossible'' (a typically Taibian formulation), ``and had thereby thrown open the door to hope.'' The novel's jagged structure, featuring rapid segues among its several narrative blocs, creates considerable early confusion, and readers may grow weary. But its characters are sharply imagined, the comic grotesquerie grows on you, the suspense keeps building, and the payoff is terrific. Dazzling, if dense, entertainment: a cockeyed magical-realist paean to the all-too-human power of the imagination in action, and under duress, then as now.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 1995

ISBN: 0-89296-589-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1995

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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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