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

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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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