Sturdy variations on an old theme, short on realism, long on expertly frayed nerves.

MARRIED TO A STRANGER

MacDonald’s latest matron-in-distress is a bride who fears that her bridegroom is the man who nearly killed her and intends to try again.

Although Burke Heisler, the psychiatrist who runs the New Jersey clinic where Emma Hollis works, has made it painfully clear that he doesn’t reciprocate her crush on him, things have worked out better for Emma than for her boss. Burke’s marriage to Emma’s old roommate, mercurial poet Natalie White, has ended with her suicide, but his introduction of Emma to his old friend, freelance writer David Webster, has led to a whirlwind romance, a welcome pregnancy and a wedding. Hours after the nuptials, however, Emma’s idyll ends with shocking suddenness at her honeymoon cabin in the Pine Barrens. While David’s stepped out to chop firewood, she’s attacked by a masked stranger wielding an axe. She and the baby she’s carrying survive the assault, but a providential hunter who comes to her aid isn’t so lucky. On top of her physical injuries and her psychological trauma, Emma has to deal with the broad insinuations of Lt. Joan Atkins, the cop who’s convinced that David wanted Emma’s money but didn’t want to wait for it. Can Emma really trust the man who swears he hasn’t been to the cabin since he was a child even though a witness has placed him there a few months ago, a man who keeps his desk drawer locked and lies about the reason, a man whose sudden disappearances coincide all too neatly with the continuing attacks on her? MacDonald (The Girl Next Door, 2004, etc.) stocks her cast with other guilty-looking parties, from the oily second husband of Emma’s mother to a disgruntled father convinced his daughter’s death from anorexia is Emma’s fault. And although Atkins never considers female suspects, there are plenty of them as well.

Sturdy variations on an old theme, short on realism, long on expertly frayed nerves.

Pub Date: July 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-6955-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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