FREEZING

A lonely morgue photographer's fixation on a late client unleashes madness and violence. But not before Evans (The Last Girl, 1996) takes the time to turn the temperature down well below zero in Stewart Park's little world. Stewart isn't just your ordinary morgue attendant; physically ugly and cursed with a crippling stutter, he'd be a social outcast even if he worked on a movie set. When he goes home from his cheerless workplace, it's to cross swords with his sister Mary (who talks to him only to say she's leaving her two little boys with him again), with his senile father (who seems to live for the moment when Stewart will absent-mindedly leave his bedroom door unlocked so he can sneak inside and paw through Stewart's things), orin the happiest moments of his pitiful lifeto play the computer-game nemesis called Dustraiser. The best-adjusted attendant at the morgue abruptly gets sacked; Mary, who's taken up with a new man who leaves her and the boys bruised, refuses to leave Lee and Lenny alone with her father; Stewart, who's been invited to his mate's engagement party only so he can photograph the happy couple, never thinks to bring his camera. Into this quietly hellish orbitthink of Polanski's film Repulsionspins an unknown dead woman whose face haunts Stewart so powerfully that he takes the photograph of her home so it'll be the first thing he sees each morning and the last thing before sleep each night. The mood is already so grim that it's clear this latest obsession can lead to no good, yet Evans patiently piles on the menace until Stewart finds himself in the middle of a criminal plot that, oddly enough, seems less scarifying than the bleakly and believably normal existence it interrupts. ``There's nothing like words for separating the living and the dead,'' opines Stewart. Maybe, but meanwhile Evans uses every word of her novel to immerse its mousy hero more deeply into his death-in-life.

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-56947-121-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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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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