An imperfect but highly readable mystery built around a man in a coma.


A priest tries to discover the reason for a firefighter’s suicide attempt in this novel.

After 11 years in the priesthood, Father Jamie Bluterre still hasn’t found his calling. Attached to New York’s Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, he considers this assignment his last opportunity to prove he deserves to wear his collar. He has been ordered by his superior to receive the confession of 55-year-old firefighter Sean “Duke” Ducotty, who lies comatose in a hospital with a bullet lodged in his brain from an attempted suicide. Doctors assume Duke is brain dead, but he can actually hear everything that goes on around him, trapped like a prisoner in his own body. He is also visited by visions of Valerie Dunn, his feisty former lover. Father Blu seeks to uncover the cause of Duke’s suicide attempt and, thereby, hopefully, to save the man’s soul. “I want to understand—the church wants to understand—if he was fully responsible or even responsible at all for his action,” he explains to Duke’s former battalion chief. “What was his state of mind when he did this?” Meanwhile, Duke relives the events that led to the fateful act, scouring them for meaning. The two haunted men, one sleeping, one awake, seek to unravel the mystery of Duke and Valerie, a series of arsons, and the musical clues that the firefighter lay scattered behind him. Lengsfelder’s prose is moody and dreamlike, particularly Duke’s comatose ruminations: “In those drugged hours, Val came, half woman half moth; great ochre wings challenging the emptiness, with the grace of a flame and the will of a raptor, dragging me back into the light, into the fluorescent hospital room with the bleached shapes, that once again became doctors circling me.” The novel unfolds slowly, and while the premise is wonderfully evocative, readers will quickly get the sense that the author is struggling to make Duke more compelling and mysterious than he actually is. There’s only so much romance that can be squeezed from the lives of these aging New Yorkers, many of whom seem to chafe under the noirish framing. Even so, the book is often compelling, and Father Blu is an oddly dynamic and vulnerable detective as he tries to salvage Duke’s soul—and his own.

An imperfect but highly readable mystery built around a man in a coma.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020


Page Count: 417

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2020

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.


Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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