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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As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution...


Who’s robbing all those banks and kidnapping all those people and killing all those accomplices? It’s somebody calling himself the Mastermind—a comic-book sobriquet that represents everything that’s wrong with the latest installment in Patterson’s Alex Cross franchise.

A young woman robs a bank in suburban Maryland and threatens to kill the manager’s family if she’s kept from meeting her timetable. She’s less than a minute late out the door, so the family dies. So does the robber. So do all the staff at a second bank after somebody tips the police off. Who could possibly be so ruthless? It’s the Mastermind, the evil genius who set up both robberies intending murder from the beginning—even warning the cops the second time. And robbing banks is only the beginning for the megalomaniac, who’s plotting a group abduction worth $30 million and a series of maneuvers that’ll feed his cat’s-paws to the police, or to the fishes. And since the Mastermind likes to see families suffer, he vows to take the war of nerves right to forensic psychologist Cross. But if he wants to ruin the D.C. detective’s life, he’ll have to stand in line, since Cross’s girlfriend Christine Johnson is pulling away from him and his daughter Jannie is suddenly having seizures. Despite his prowess with guns and fists, and his awesome insight into other people’s minds, Cross would be desperate if it weren’t for the timely embraces of FBI agent Betsey Cavalierre, to whom he’ll make passionate love while telling her, “I like being with you. A lot. Even more than I expected.” With an adversary like that, how can the Mastermind prevail?

As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution unclouded by texture, thought, or moral complexity, to produce the speediest tosh on the planet.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-69325-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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