Beneath the momentum of the investigation lies a pervasive sadness that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the...

TWO DAYS GONE

A Pennsylvania police officer digs deep, then still deeper, into the mystery of an inexplicably slaughtered family.

Professor Thomas Huston seemed to have it all: a successful career as a novelist, a position as a popular teacher at Shenango College, a loving wife, and three children too young to have grown away from him yet. So why on earth would he have taken a razor to their throats before disappearing into the night? Why, even if he felt compelled to end their lives, would he have varied his technique for his baby son, stabbing him in the heart instead? And why, if he’s so determined to run away, does he keep hovering around the town, telephoning his friends only to read them poems by Edgar Allan Poe? Sgt. Ryan DeMarco counts himself as one of those friends, but he finds Huston’s behavior, whether or not he’s as guilty as he looks, as inexplicable as everyone else. Unlike everyone else, however, DeMarco can’t let go of these agonizing riddles. Still mourning the death of his own baby son in a car crash, he feels an uncanny kinship to Huston, an intimacy that deepens when he retraces the writer’s steps to Whispers, the strip club where Huston had cultivated owner Bonnie Harris and dancer Danni Reynolds as models for Annabel, the heroine of his latest novel. As DeMarco, who’s a lot better at butting heads with station commander Sgt. Kyle Bowen, the supervisor he used to supervise before his demotion, than at detective work, struggles to make sense of Huston’s behavior, Silvis (The Boy Who Shoots Crows, 2011, etc.) intercuts his inquiries with glimpses into Huston’s tantalizingly underspecified memories of the fatal night until the two men finally collide in the first of several memorable lurches into resolution.

Beneath the momentum of the investigation lies a pervasive sadness that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3973-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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