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

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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