Unfinished Business

A newspaper reporter returns to his Florida hometown to confront unsolved mysteries from his past in Parker’s debut novel.
In 1952, war hero Sam Williams is elected sheriff of Jasper County, Florida. Resolving to clean up corruption, he targets the bootleggers, gamblers and prostitutes running rampant throughout the county. Although his campaign against corruption is successful, he also becomes a target. One night, Sam and his wife, Jean, are killed in a car accident, which was staged by two notorious bootleggers. Sam’s colleagues believe it’s murder, but they lack the evidence to prove it. Sam’s son Tom goes to live with his grandparents in Monrovia, Florida, where years later his life is rocked by another tragedy: His best friend, Jimmie Lee Johnson, a black teenager, is lynched for the murder of a white woman named Dana Padgett. Tom and Dana were having an affair, and he’s certain that Jimmie is innocent. Tom goes on to become a newspaper reporter in Tampa, and later returns to Monrovia, where he confronts these unresolved mysteries and uncovers additional secrets about people close to his family. Parker’s sprawling narrative includes several interconnected subplots focusing on racism, drug kingpins and illicit relationships, which move at a brisk pace. However, some of the secondary characters get lost in the narrative tangle. Tom, however, is a surprisingly strong, complex character. He’s earnest and idealistic, and sympathetic toward his friend Jimmie and his family; at the same time, he indulges in a relationship with the flirtatious Dana, even though she’s married. Unfortunately, the multitude of other characters and plots means that some are more developed than others. For example, early on, Parker introduces a mysterious girl named Panky Carter, who seduces young Tom and then quickly disappears from the novel; she reappears toward the end, but with little explanation.
A fast-paced tale that leads its protagonist down some unexpected and dangerous paths, but the twists and turns come at the expense of secondary character development.

Pub Date: June 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497532946

Page Count: 348

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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