Bilal’s sure-footed storytelling and nuanced sense of character augur well for this new series.

THE DIVINITIES

A new investigative odd couple probes a strange killing at a construction site in London's Battersea neighborhood.

Veteran detective Calil Drake would never have expected to be called to a scene as unlikely as the upscale development Magnolia Quays. But it’s there that a pair of bodies have been found at the bottom of a pit, partially covered with rocks. One of them appears to be that of Marsha Thwaite, a gallery owner whose husband is the developer. Howard Thwaite takes the news stoically, curious mainly about the manner of his wife’s death. Dr. Rayhana Crane is a forensic psychologist assigned to the case. Drake’s reputed volatility and the reserved Crane’s inexperience as a forensic investigator make their partnership proceed uneasily. The second victim is identified as Tei Hideo, a middle-aged French widower born in Japan. His daughter, Yuko, confirms that he was an artist. The motive and mechanics of the killing remain unclear. Adultery is one theory; after all, stoning is the punishment for adulterers in some cultures. Drake’s sidekick, Kelly, also uncovers evidence of kickbacks on the construction project involving creepy Mr. Cricket. As pieces of the puzzle come together with the aid of CCTV, witness testimony, and forensic analysis, Bilal rounds out the characters of his two leads with chapters about their histories. Drake’s compulsion to investigate the torching of a mosque in the neighborhood where he grew up brings him unexpectedly closer to an understanding of Crane’s past and her personality. While Drake fills in the backgrounds of the two victims, Crane clarifies the timeline and details of the murder, leading to success for the sleuths and the author of the popular Makana Mysteries series (Dark Water, 2017, etc.).

Bilal’s sure-footed storytelling and nuanced sense of character augur well for this new series.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9996833-7-5

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Indigo/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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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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