AN AFGHAN WINTER

Talwar’s thought-provoking mystery is set against the backdrop of war-torn Afghanistan.

Soon after Indian journalist Anzan arrives at Kabul’s Aram guesthouse, one of his fellow boarders, an American ostensibly working as a sports advisor to the Ministry of Youth, is killed by an explosion in his room. Anzan then uses his investigative skills to narrow down an international cast of suspects, including members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and learns exactly who this American is and why someone might want to kill him. Talwar is a superb storyteller who manages to conjure both the flavor of an expatriate community and the day-to-day life of Afghanis. He peoples his tale with a range of characters and shows the country’s array of spices, foods, clothing and expressions. Perhaps most impressive is the way the author twists the noir genre into a glorious multinational reflection of itself. Though a skillful and seasoned journalist, Anzan’s narration is politely cynical rather than hardball. His repartee is delivered, not in gritty wisecracks, but in an urbane but stilted English that doesn't exactly sound like Mickey Spillane: “I’ve done difficult assignments in dangerous places before, but when I thought of Afghanistan, I felt the secretions of fear line my stomach.” As with any good mystery, the plot thickens at every turn. While Anzan travels about Afghanistan speaking to various people, contradictory clues and hints arise. Initial suspects are discarded as new ones appear, until a sickening realization begins to dawn on him. In the end, his discoveries force him to make a decision that will define what type of man he is. More than murder set in a distant locale, the novel examines classic themes of love, loss, identity, friendship and the overarching effects of politics on the lives of ordinary people. This is self-publishing at its best, lending voice to a perspective that might otherwise be lost to more clichéd views of foreign culture. An intelligent thriller, perfect for readers who wish to immerse themselves in an exotic, dangerous land.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466495463

Page Count: 234

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

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Darkly essential reading for every genre fan who’s ever considered sending a swab to a mail-order DNA testing service.

FAIR WARNING

A first-rate case for Connelly’s third-string detective, bulldog journalist Jack McEvoy, who’s been biding his time since The Scarecrow (2009) as Harry Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer have hogged the spotlight.

The consumer-protection website FairWarning can’t hold a candle to the LA Times, where Jack once plied his trade. The real problem this time, though, is that the cops come to Jack rather than vice versa, as a person of interest who had a one-night stand a year ago with Christina Portrero, whose latest one-night stand broke her neck. In fact, Jack quickly discovers, Tina was only the most recent among a number of women who died of atlanto-occipital dislocation—several of them erroneously listed as accidents, all of them clients of the genetic testing firm GT23. Why would sending out your DNA for genetic information put you at enormously increased risk of falling victim to a brutal killer who calls himself the Shrike? The answer to the question of how “predators now can custom-order their victims,” which lies in the DRD4 gene, is guaranteed to make even the most hard-bitten readers queasy. Throughout his pursuit of the killer, the LAPD’s pursuit of him, and his unwilling partnerships with fellow journalist Emily Atwater and former FBI agent Rachel Walling, Jack works the case with a dogged professionalism, a mastery of detail, and a scarred but oversized heart that puts most of his police procedural cousins to shame.

Darkly essential reading for every genre fan who’s ever considered sending a swab to a mail-order DNA testing service.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-31653-942-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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