For all Lovesey’s ingenuity, the deepest pleasures here involve not the plotting—two of the three cases turn on the same...

BERTIE

THE COMPLETE PRINCE OF WALES MYSTERIES

In the absence of a brand-new mystery starring England’s most unlikely sleuth, His Royal Highness Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, Lovesey (Beau Death, 2017, etc.) supplies the next-best thing: a collection of Bertie’s three earlier appearances, originally published between 1987 and 1993.

Lovesey’s brief but informative Introduction notes that the first of these novels, Bertie and the Tin Man, was based on a real-life mystery, the suicide of notable jockey Fred Archer, who shot himself at the height of his career after asking his sister, “Are they coming?” The Prince of Wales, who takes a keen interest in horseracing, to the extent that his interest in anything can be described as keen, takes it upon himself to figure out why Archer would have killed himself. Though the results of his endeavors wouldn’t have encouraged most amateur sleuths, Bertie returns in Bertie and the Seven Bodies, a case that takes its model not from real life but from Agatha Christie’s interest in using nursery rhymes to structure her celebrated mysteries. Invited to Desborough Hall for a week of hunting, Bertie can’t help noticing that his fellow guests are being picked off at the rate of one a day following a nursery rhyme his wife, the long-suffering Princess Alexandra, points out to him. Lovesey makes Bertie come across as earnest and obtuse enough to keep the police away from Desborough while he produces a series of solutions that are proved hilariously wrong day after day. Bertie and the Crime of Passion finds Bertie in Paris, where legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt serves as his sidekick as he applies his unique skills to the riddle of who shot the fiance of an old friend’s daughter as he was dancing in a crowd of hundreds on the floor of the Moulin Rouge.

For all Lovesey’s ingenuity, the deepest pleasures here involve not the plotting—two of the three cases turn on the same well-worn red herring—but the charmingly invincible obtuseness of his narrator/sleuth, who remains as winning a loser now as he was 30 years ago.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64129-049-4

Page Count: 648

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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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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