This sequel to The Cracked Spine (2016) is rich in Scottish dialect and eccentric characters, including a well-meaning...



A murder at a Scottish castle reveals a murky past.

Kansas transplant Delaney Nichols and her protective landlord drive to Castle Doune outside Edinburgh to do a favor for her boss, Edwin MacAlister. Purveyor of rare books and manuscripts, Edwin owns The Cracked Spine bookstore in Edinburgh, and he’s asked Delaney to pick up a vintage comic book from a William Wallace re-enactor. They find the re-enactor in full costume and as dead as Wallace, with the comic book half-hidden on the castle roof. The dead man, Billy Armstrong, was the son of Gordon Armstrong, an old friend of Edwin’s, though the two men fell out 50 years ago and Gordon supposedly died in a recent fire. Almost immediately, Gordon shows up at the bookstore, very much alive and smelling of fish from the market where he works under an assumed name, accusing Edwin of having something to do with his son's death. Assisted by her boyfriend, Tom, Delaney returns to the castle to try to find a paper—a handwritten account of why Gordon has been in hiding—that was supposedly inside the book. Instead they turn up a dirk—a foot-long Scottish knife—and a business card printed with the name “Grizel Sheehy, Bagpipes,” that has Billy’s last name written on the back. Delaney’s fondness for Edwin leads her to lie to the police, nose her way into other people’s business, and walk into danger as she attempts to find out not only who killed Billy, but what really happened 50 years ago to come between Gordon, Edwin, and other members of a secret society. Is the real message to Edwin the dirk that Delaney found? How many times will the name William figure into past and present mysteries? Did Grizel kill Billy with her bagpipes? And will all the literary voices—quotations from fictional characters—help Delaney find the answers she seeks or get her killed?

This sequel to The Cracked Spine (2016) is rich in Scottish dialect and eccentric characters, including a well-meaning heroine who brings on most of her own troubles.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-05749-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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