Using Hall’s trademark humor and panache, the Puzzle Lady (A Puzzle to Be Named Later, 2017, etc.) finds yet another clever...



It takes both a crossword puzzle and a sudoku to provide the clues that solve several murders.

Although Cora Felton excels at solving sudokus, she doesn’t have anything like the crossword-puzzle savvy that would justify the lucrative career she’s built as the Puzzle Lady. In fact, few people know that her niece, Sherry, actually creates and solves the puzzles. When teen Peggy Dawson begs Cora to solve a mysterious crossword that some unknown person has sent to her, Cora enlists her friend Harvey Beerbaum, a real cruciverbalist, to help—but when they all get to the girl's house, the puzzle has vanished. Peggy goes to local police chief Dale Harper and harasses him until he agrees to find her puzzle. Harper sends deputy Dan Finley, who drags Cora along. Peggy’s brother, Johnny, refuses to let them search his room but soon phones the police to report that he's found not the puzzle but a bloodstained knife. The corpse who probably bloodied the knife is that of a construction worker staying in a motel near his job site. Cora’s happy days turn to dross when she spots Melvin Crabtree, the ex she loves to hate, claiming to be back in town to work with the realtor who employs Johnny Dawson, presumably on another of Melvin’s fake real estate scams. Johnny, arrested by the police, hires Cora’s clever lawyer friend Becky Baldwin, who quickly springs her client when Cora gets the coroner to admit that the time of death meant the knife couldn't have been the murder weapon. Turning on a dime, the police then arrest Melvin. More puzzles appear, including a sudoku that hints that Johnny is guilty. Once Cora learns that Melvin has a book contract to write an exposé about his life with the Puzzle Lady, she realizes that she must not only clear him, but do so in a way that forces him to keep her secret.

Using Hall’s trademark humor and panache, the Puzzle Lady (A Puzzle to Be Named Later, 2017, etc.) finds yet another clever way to get herself out of yet another tricky situation.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-15520-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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