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DIRECT ELIMINATION

This fast-moving mystery injects thrills and sizzle into claims settlement.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

In this third installment of a series, a favor for a friend quickly turns into a serious headache.

In Norton’s tale, Boston insurance claims investigator Amy Lynch arranges for a homeowner’s policy through her company’s underwriting department for her boyfriend Pete’s cousin Andy. So naturally, Andy’s Dorchester apartment building soon is on fire. To make matters worse, Andy allowed an old friend’s fencing team to crash in a couple of empty apartments, and one of the athletes ends up dead in the cellar. Complicating the investigation are three items found in the cellar: bullets, marijuana, and, worst of all, the skeleton of a baby buried in a suitcase. Other wrinkles include a missing fencer, an abused woman, and a skulking drug dealer. That’s why Amy spends most of the novel out in the field, chasing down leads and avoiding uncomfortable questions back at the office. She leaves her capable assistant, Peggy, to run interference and do research for her. To complete her investigation, Amy must utilize acquaintances old and new: a nosy neighbor, a handsome arson investigator, an irascible detective, and a wise medical examiner. To solve this case, Amy has to go back decades to when it actually began. It’s a story that has a tragic beginning and a bittersweet ending. Leave it to Norton, who spent her entire career in the insurance industry, to make investigating claims seem exciting, a formidable task. This time out, after unearthing Nazi secrets in Paris in Dead Drop (2018), Amy is back on her home turf of Boston. That familiarity makes Amy more comfortable, as she has access to her support system, which includes Pete and Peggy. Amy even manages to hold her sharp tongue long enough to reach a truce with George, her office nemesis. The supporting cast is well developed, helping Amy to shine. The author’s foray into the world of fencing is intriguing yet has little to do with the mystery itself. But her narrative flies along pleasingly despite several zigs and zags along the way. Amy once again proves to be on point with her latest case.

This fast-moving mystery injects thrills and sizzle into claims settlement.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Stillwater River Publications

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY HAS KILLED SOMEONE

This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.

In this mystery, the narrator constantly adds commentary on how the story is constructed.

In 1929, during the golden age of mysteries, a (real-life) writer named Ronald Knox published the “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction,” 10 rules that mystery writers should obey in order to “play fair.” When faced with his own mystery story, our narrator, an author named Ernest Cunningham who "write[s] books about how to write books," feels like he must follow these rules himself. The story seemingly begins on the night his brother Michael calls to ask him to help bury a body—and shows up with the body and a bag containing $267,000. Fast-forward three years, and Ernie’s family has gathered at a ski resort to celebrate Michael’s release from prison. The family dynamics are, to put it lightly, complicated—and that’s before a man shows up dead in the snow and Michael arrives with a coffin in a truck. When the local cop arrests Michael for the murder, things get even more complicated: There are more deaths; Michael tells a story about a coverup involving their father, who was part of a gang called the Sabers; and Ernie still has (most of) the money and isn’t sure whom to trust or what to do with it. Eventually, Ernie puts all the pieces together and gathers the (remaining) family members and various extras for the great denouement. As the plot develops, it becomes clear that there’s a pretty interesting mystery at the heart of this novel, but Stevenson’s postmodern style has Ernie constantly breaking the fourth wall to explain how the structure of his story meets the criteria for a successful detective story. Some readers are drawn to mysteries because they love the formula and logic—this one’s for them. If you like the slow, sometimes-creepy, sometimes-comforting unspooling of a good mystery, it might not be your cup of tea—though the ending, to be fair, is still something of a surprise.

This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-327902-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Mariner Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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