A diverting and intriguing family mystery involving a priest.


A journalist investigates a decades-old accusation in this novel.

“Great-aunt Milly shot a priest” begins Brunjes’ (Write Around Whidbey, 2016) tale, and Maggie Callahan, who has heard this family remark all her life, is determined to see if there is any truth to it. Milly Miller was among many who were forced from their land and livelihood when the Grand Coulee Dam was built in the 1930s in Washington state. Off goes Maggie, a journalist, to search the parish records in Grand Coulee and then the diocesan records in Spokane. Bishop Davis starts stonewalling her, but she finds an ally in Father Matthew Brannigan, the young pastor of St. Francis parish in Grand Coulee. Father Matthew in turn has a friend in old Father Francesco in Spokane. They begin digging and start playing almost a cat-and-mouse game with Bishop Davis. Clearly the bishop is hiding something; then there is that secret archive storeroom—quite Gothic, really. In the midst of this, Maggie is called to report on a forest fire west of Grand Coulee. She does herself proud (she is search-and-rescue and EMT trained), saving a lost 6-year-old and a wayward horse. There is also much discussion with Father Matthew and Father Francesco about priestly celibacy (yes, readers can see where this is going). Finally she and Father Matthew track down an old, frail priest who was involved not with Milly but with her sister Evangeline, Maggie’s grandmother. Brunjes spins her story effectively; the chapters are short and keep things moving. But the portrayal of Bishop Davis is a bit much. He never simply “says.” Instead, he hisses, thunders, growls, sputters, and roars. He does have a lot to lose, so the near caricature is understandable. Nevertheless, the secret that drives the narrative is deftly handled. The author milks the reveal for all its worth, and this reader took breaks between later chapters to savor the suspense. Tales about the Roman Catholic Church—its traditions, its enigmas, its moral stances, and the lives of its clergy—have always fascinated readers, and Brunjes makes a lively contribution to this category.

A diverting and intriguing family mystery involving a priest.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5399-1302-3

Page Count: 226

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2017

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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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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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