Royal’s 13th medieval murder (Land of Shadows, 2016, etc.) takes a page from The Mousetrap, forcing the detective to think...

THE PROUD SINNER

A medieval prioress with a talent for solving murders suddenly has far too many for comfort.

Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal Priory must play reluctant host to seven scheming abbots and their servants. Abbot Ilbert, arriving extremely ill, dies before talented Sister Anne can help him, and although Abbot Tristram seems to recover for a while, he too passes away. After a heavy snowfall prevents them from traveling on to meet with a papal envoy, the remaining abbots, ensconced in the new guest quarters and served the best food the priory can provide, carp and whine as they wait for the roads to reopen. Despite their protestations of holiness, each selfishly hopes to advance his own position in the church hierarchy. Odo, the Abbot of Caldwell, the obese brother of Eleanor’s friend Crowner Ralf, is obsessed with food, while abbots Gifre, Mordredus, Didier, and Ancell mask their concerns and ambitions behind polite facades. Sister Anne redoubles her efforts to discover the cause of Ilbert’s death when Odo becomes ill and Abbott Gifre dies after eating mushroom tart. Going off to question the people at the inn the party stayed at the night before the first illness, Ralf hears of a mysterious servant belonging neither to the inn or the abbots who helped serve them. Both Ralf and Eleanor’s right hand, Brother Thomas, now must search in Tyndal village for the man they believe the snowstorm may have forced to stay there. Though several of the abbots must have been poisoned, the poisons may have been quite different. If any of them are to survive, Eleanor must put her fine mind to work to discover the killer.

Royal’s 13th medieval murder (Land of Shadows, 2016, etc.) takes a page from The Mousetrap, forcing the detective to think outside the box imprisoning her and her suspects.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4642-0725-9

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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