Despite all the high tech and ballyhoo, the mother-and-daughter team writing as Tracy give their once formidable foursome...


The misfit computer geeks of Monkeewrench Software are called in to reopen a missing person case that rapidly blossoms, as if in response to their involvement, into a case of serial homicide.

Veterinary tech Marla Gustafson was so kindhearted that she wept over a rabbit she’d run over. So when her car, abandoned near a large bloodstain on a road in her rural hometown of Buttonwillow, shows no signs of mechanical failure, her father, Walt, feels certain she stopped to offer someone help and never returned. In the two months since she vanished, Detective Leo Magozzi and his colleagues on Minneapolis Homicide keep expecting to find some clue that links her death to that of Megan Lynn, a jogger found last May in Powderhorn Park with an ace of spades tucked into her clothing. But that clue has never materialized because Marla’s body has stubbornly refused to appear. So Walt and Magozzi join in asking Harley Davidson  and the rest of the Monkeewrench crew to lend a hand. As Annie Belinsky and Roadrunner duly note, the quartet wouldn’t usually think of taking on a case like this, but their fourth member, Grace MacBride, happens to be carrying Magozzi’s child, and it’s hard to say no to him. Nodding gamely to each other, the gang fires up their state-of-the-art mobile computer lab and gets to work. Their quarry, meantime, seems bent on breaking the speed record for serial murder. When the body of General Mills executive Charlotte Wells is discovered in another local park along with a four of spades, investigators have to wonder what happened to spades two and three—especially after two more corpses turn up marked with the five and six of spades.

Despite all the high tech and ballyhoo, the mother-and-daughter team writing as Tracy give their once formidable foursome (The Sixth Idea, 2016) practically nothing to do in the way of either detective work or antic byplay and provide virtually no surprises along the way. Sad.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1245-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.


A lukewarm would-be potboiler of uninvolving intrigue about a kooky quartet of conspiracy theorists—one by the name of “Oliver Stone”—who witness the murder of a federal agent.

Almost 8,000 Americans have died in attacks on U.S. soil. Rocket-propelled grenades have pierced the White House, there’s been another prison fiasco in Afghanistan, a dozen soldiers are dying every day and the war has opened a new front on the Syrian border. Thus the author’s bleak imagining of the near future. Throughout, Baldacci (Hour Game, 2004, etc.) drops reliable twists, revealing the federal agent murder to be—surprise—a minuscule piece of a much bigger plot involving snipers, nukes, a presidential kidnapping and an even gloomier vision of the future. Baldacci is not a particularly graceful writer, e.g., “Like all Secret Service agents, his suits were designed a little big in the chest, to disguise the bulge of the weapon.” Worse is the author’s chronic inability to draw convincing characters. Scooby-Doo had villains more complicated than these; distinctive quirks of the characters, such as one wearing 19th-century clothing, make them only mildly interesting. Baldacci himself seems only partly engaged in the task here. He writes as if he imagines his typical reader to be a business traveler staring down a long layover.

Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-57738-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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