The uneven plotting would benefit from tightening, but May’s sense of place is as good as it gets.



The death of her husband in a car explosion in Paris sends a woman searching for answers in the Hebrides in this expansive thriller.

By land or sea, transport to the Scottish Hebrides can be fiercely turbulent. This latest from prolific May (Coffin Road, 2017, etc.) offers smooth armchair travel to the dramatic and haunting location—and a mostly good mystery. The story begins at a textile fair in Paris as Hebrides natives Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane market Ranish tweed, their variation on iconic Harris tweed. Together for 10 years, the couple appear headed to dissolution. When Niamh sees Ruairidh leave their hotel with a woman she suspects is his mistress, she tracks them into the street, where their car explodes, killing both of them. Police initially, but briefly, see the earmarks of terrorism. Soon the investigators abandon that tack, and Niamh returns home to bury the pieces of Ruairidh’s shattered body. Here, May explores the couple’s past lives in a series of richly written, but perhaps discursive, flashbacks that often leave the mystery hanging and turn the work into a novel of two people growing up, courting, and coming together in the remote location. Painful and tragic events and relationships among family and friends become the focus. The characters—Niamh’s parents, a local police investigator, a vicious fashion designer, a childhood friend of Niamh’s who becomes a troubled adult—are animated by May’s sharp, perceptive details. The unraveling of the car bombing is not as fresh or as tight as the wrap-up to cases in some of May’s other works, though most readers will likely find the final revelation startling and satisfying. What remain consistent are May’s keen, perceptive descriptions of the Hebrides, where “jagged black rock…[stands] stubborn against the relentless power of the Atlantic.”

The uneven plotting would benefit from tightening, but May’s sense of place is as good as it gets.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68144-093-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quercus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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