An exceptional series entry with a remarkable private detective and strong supporting characters.

THE LADYKILLERS WAR

FROM THE CASE FILES OF MAX CHRISTIAN, PI

In this fifth installment of a series, a New York City private eye hunts a murderous group targeting newly elected female politicians, including his wife.

Max Christian has supported his wife, Meridew, during her congressional run and eventual triumph, though he’s dreading the New York to Washington, D.C., commute. But the private investigator has good reason to worry after a call from police detective Tina Falcone, his friend and former partner at Manhattan South homicide. Tina tells Max of an active-shooter incident in the Bronx in which the victims were a just-elected congresswoman, her family, and her campaign manager. The shooter, who’s currently in the hospital, had a note indicating he’s a member of an organization that is after “man-hating females” in Congress. Suspecting his wife may be a target, Max enlists the help of Florida-based PI pal Nick Testa, who sends his trusted private detective colleague Ray Peterson to keep an eye on Meridew. Nick, meanwhile, chases a bail jumper, Lanny Griggs, who happens to belong to the same group of domestic terrorists—called the LadyKillers Liberation Army. This band has already murdered another congresswoman, along with her family, considered “collateral damage.” Max, Tina, and Nick gather information and track down other members of the so-called army, who, along with an incel mindset, have a fear of women “taking over the world.” The three detectives, joined by Max’s PI partner, who calls himself Ahab, employ occasionally brutal techniques to get some people to talk. They hope to stop the group as well as its elusive leader, “the Colonel,” before Meridew or any other female politician dies.

Goldman, who wrote the novel with PI Malatesta, offers a sharp and focused series entry. For example, despite numerous characters, who include Nick’s goddaughter, Dani, acting as a bodyguard for another congresswoman, the tale rarely strays from the main plot. As in preceding installments, various conversations dominate the pages. In this case, Max and others are determined to extract intelligence from suspects, which entails such acts as physical abuse and unlawful detainment. But readers won’t likely sympathize with these men or the loathsome statements they brazenly make about women. Standouts in the story’s cast are female characters, particularly Meridew and Tina. The former’s refusal to “hide” or cower from the terrorists isn’t stubborn or reckless; it’s instead sheer tenacity, as she affirms that she represents the people who voted her into office. Similarly, Tina, who’s more by-the-books than Max and Nick, displays an impressive amount of restraint when questioning a suspect who insults her both as a woman and a lesbian. Tina also has some of the best lines, which are indicative of Goldman’s keen dialogue. While complaining about the FBI, she asserts: “These feebs are a bunch of suit-and-tie guys with spit-polished black Florsheims. You’ve seen ’em work—they only move around in pairs, like Siamese twins checking up on each other.” Even if tracking down terrorist suspects involves minimal mystery and investigation, there are still surprises in the final act and ultimate wrap-up.

An exceptional series entry with a remarkable private detective and strong supporting characters.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2020

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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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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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