Although the latest in Hall’s long string of amusing mysteries (The Purloined Puzzle, 2018, etc.) features only a single...

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LIGHTS! CAMERA! PUZZLES!

The Puzzle Lady goes to Hollywood.

Cora Felton, famous for creating crossword puzzles, is actually hopeless at them. Her success as her niece’s frontwoman and her genuine abilities as a wisecracking sleuth are about to be tested by a former husband’s tell-all book, which reveals her checkered past. Melvin Crabtree has sold the movie rights to his book, but Cora and her lawyer, Becky Baldwin, have negotiated a contract that allows her some control over her portrayal. Upon her arrival at the New York City shoot, the director gives Cora a crossword puzzle that she ignores, since she’s much more interested in the casting call to select the two actresses who’ll play the present-day Cora and the Cora once married to Melvin. The first day of auditions is capped by a midnight phone call from NYPD homicide cop Sgt. Crowley, with whom Cora’s been briefly involved, telling her that someone’s been murdered at the theater. Cora recognizes the victim as production assistant Karen Hart. Her boyfriend is also found dead, a possible suicide, but when Cora learns he has tickets for Hamilton she becomes convinced it's murder, because, after all, no one would kill himself before seeing the show. Cora’s not happy with the casting of her present-day self, but she’s thrilled with the casting of talented star Angela Broadbent as the younger Cora. True, the actor cast as Melvin is awful, but he’s found hanging in his trailer just before he can be fired—another murder made to look like suicide. Apart from some weather-related problems, everything runs more smoothly once a much better actor is cast as Melvin, until the director’s almost smashed by a falling light. Cora learns a great deal about which staffers are sleeping with whom in order to get better jobs, but the motive for the murders eludes her until she remembers the crossword puzzle she ignored.

Although the latest in Hall’s long string of amusing mysteries (The Purloined Puzzle, 2018, etc.) features only a single crossword, there’s still plenty to be puzzled about.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-059-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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