From Highsmith—veteran investigator of violence and the criminal mind (with, most recently, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley's Game)—comes a new exploration of, this time, a domestic violence, one whose fuse is lit when Richard Alderman, a stolid, small-town insurance agent, husband to mild-mannered Lois and father to two sons, is "born again." So, no stylish Tom Ripley here, only an average American family cloven asunder by Highsmith's version of fundamentalist fanaticism, aggressiveness and hypocrisy. As the story opens, Richard Alderman's oldest son, Arthur, is graduating from high school, falling in love with girl-next-doorish Maggie, wrestling with notions of values and self-respect, and may be, all in all, a little too good to be true. When his oddly intense 15-year-old brother Robbie has a close brush with death due to a "dangerous fever and strep throat," father Richard prays through the night, lands himself a miracle and turns hyper-devout, not to mention intolerant, anti-evolution, and—most important to Arthur, since he's gotten Maggie pregnant—anti-abortion. Nevertheless, Maggie goes ahead and has an abortion and is later caught (thanks to Robbie's diligence) in Arthur's bedroom; Richard kicks Arthur out and refuses to foot the bill for college. Arthur is self-reliant enough to handle homelessness and to get into the local university, but he gets increasingly uneasy as Robbie grows weirder, obsessively religious, and his mother more timid—even when she learns that her husband has had an affair with one of the "church crowd." Then, kaboom. . .Robbie hears about his dad's dalliance and blows him away with a hunting rifle ("Dad deserved it," he says grimly). Arthur moves back home, mom snaps out of her depression; and soon Robbie's looking forward to being released from juvenile detention and joining the Marines. Who's wrong, who's right in this novel? In true Highsmith fashion, we're left unsure—as well as uncaring, since Arthur's awfully callous and such a humdrum protagonist and Richard such a caricature (the deck's so stacked against him from the word go that the reader doubts the novel's verisimilitude). And though Highsmith builds apprehension like a pro, there's no payoff, just a moral knot too easily untied or too unengaging to labor over.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1985

ISBN: 0393322432

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1985


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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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