A dynamic protagonist’s resolve makes her an admirable sleuth in this moody thriller.

Notes from Hell

From the An Ann Dexter Mystery series , Vol. 2

In Bukey’s (Leap of Faith, 2014) sophomore thriller, reporter Ann Dexter scours an abducted opera singer’s past hoping she’ll find clues that will lead his captor to release him.

Ann would prefer investigative journalism to reporting on education for the Seattle Times, but she’s happy to interview Franco Albanese. He’s the rock star of opera, and Ann, a fan of the art form, is smitten by the striking, charismatic singer. But at a dress rehearsal for the upcoming Don Giovanni, Ann’s disappointed to learn that Franco won’t be singing. The man, as it turns out, has disappeared. Ann sees potential for a story and the chance to prove herself an investigative reporter. She talks with Franco’s associates, starting with his assistant, Martin Coulter. The kidnapper sends Ann emails, which the cops start monitoring. Against the wishes of her boss, Jeff Skinner, and authorities, Ann initiates covert correspondence with the kidnapper, who cryptically demands she publish Franco’s confession. She continues to delve into the singer’s history, locking onto a possibly relevant event from years earlier. Her investigation deepens when someone winds up murdered, and Ann’s persistence could lead her into danger. Bukey’s protagonist, well-established in her preceding novel, is just as fascinating the second time, supported by psychic boyfriend, Victor, and sis Nancy, who’s undergoing chemo. But her flaws make her stand out: though she cares for Nancy, she’s likewise territorial, wanting her sister to know exactly who Victor “belonged to” when sensing a closeness between them. The prose follows suit: narrator Ann points out shortcomings of her home (“dark and mossy”). The apparent blemishes give the setting flavor, in this case, an irresistible somber ambience. Inconsistencies are unfortunately hard to miss: a smartphone is also written as Smartphone and Smart Phone, while an important text is later noted as a voice mail.

A dynamic protagonist’s resolve makes her an admirable sleuth in this moody thriller.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9835714-3-8

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Rat City Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016

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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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After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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