LIFE ITSELF

Taibo's waggish novels about Mexico City shamus Hector Belascoar†n Shayne (No Happy Ending, 1993, etc.) often gave the impression of wanting to be the last detective stories ever written. That impression's even stronger in this novel-about-a- novel that sends mystery writer JosÇ Daniel Fierro, who squeezes orange juice by hand and urinates sitting down, to the northern town of Santa Ana as its new police chief. Against a backdrop of laughably epidemic ruling-party corruption and anti-union warfare, JD and his colorful underlings (an assistant who only answers to ``Blind Man,'' officers who once worked as activists or sold insurance) battle the federal judicial police (who as always are intent on a cover-up) to identify a killer: Someone followed American photographer Anne Goldin from her tryst with Santa Ana's mayor and left her nude, stabbed body in front of the altar at the Church of Carmen. It's only the first of several murders, each of which implicates the victim neatly in the preceding murder. But the case itself, as JD muses in his interspersed letters to his wife back home and in his ``Notes for the History of the Radical City Government of Santa Ana,'' is anything but neat. JD ``discovers nothing, only that things simply happen,'' as in life itself. JD is on target on his own novel's shortcomings: ``It lacks a hook, dramatic architecture, the negative characters...are badly drawn.'' But this end-of-the-road fantasy, so full of Taibo's melancholy cartoon gaiety, will be a feast for connoisseurs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-89296-518-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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