Banter and battling guide the plot, which is never as important as the leads’ cutting interactions and the promise of...

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BETTER DEAD

In this first installment of the B&B Spirits series, the ghost of a playboy husband haunts a recent Louisiana widow who strikes a deal to use the haunting to increase business—but at what cost?

Holly Davis’ good-for-nothing husband of 10 years passes away before she can leave him. When Burl returns to Holly’s ancestral home, Holly Grove, she’s more than a little irritated. What right does he have to hang around post-mortem when the whole town of Delta Ridge knows he wasn’t there for her in life? But Holly Grove’s been struggling ever since Holly started converting it to a B&B three years ago, and she wonders if a ghostly presence might supply the added oomph the place needs to put it on the map. As in life, of course, Burl has his own agenda. He needs Holly’s help to pass on to his heavenly home by resolving what he couldn’t before his untimely death. Though Burl’s vague on details, Holly, who’s in no place to negotiate, agrees to help so long as Burl can help make Holly Grove’s haunting a success. Though it seems the two might finally have worked out an arrangement that benefits them both, a wrench is promptly thrown in the works. The wrench has a name: Jake McCann, a handsome writer filling in at the Gazette. Jake, whose relationship with Holly goes back to the days before Burl, offers her a deal: free ads in the Gazette in return for free housing at Holly Grove. Holly isn’t as suspicious as she should be considering that Jake wants to stay at Holly Grove to bust a drug ring that was operating out of the house before Burl’s demise. Will Burl’s pre-death antics get Holly in trouble with Jake, the guy she can’t let go, or will she find a way to send Burl to his heavenly reward while getting her reward on Earth?

Banter and battling guide the plot, which is never as important as the leads’ cutting interactions and the promise of romance.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4967-1321-6

Page Count: 375

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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