by R.B. Young ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 30, 2020
A well-paced, topical whodunit.
Awards & Accolades
A debut mystery, set in an Ontario town where high school proves to be murder.
It’s 2006, and Pamela Renard, who’s of Indigenous and White French Canadian heritage, is often bullied on the Mohawk reservation where she lives. She meets an all-new group of bullies when she gets a scholarship to attend Oakville’s prestigious Woodmore Academy. Redheaded Rose Molloy heads up the mean-girl group who mercilessly harass Pamela with racist insults and other verbal abuse. The following year, young janitor Sol Fitzgerald discovers Pamela’s bloody corpse, along with the body of Woodmore board member Ray Havers. The suspects include Sol himself, as he has a troubled past; Rose; and Bobby Havers, who’s Ray’s son and Pamela’s boyfriend. The revelation that Pam was pregnant adds yet another layer to police detective Alison Downey’s investigation. Race plays a big part in the book; Alison feels particular pressure to solve the case as the only Black female detective on her squad, and the author draws on the real-life 2006 Grand River land dispute between Indigenous people and the Canadian government. He also effectively illustrates how such clashes can sow racist ideas in young people’s minds. The book ably addresses social issues, such as teenage sex, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Poverty looms large for many characters; for example, Sol chafes at being a member of a less wealthy class than that of his girlfriend, Tash Harishandra. Throughout, the author succeeds at creating diverse figures who are flawed in minor and sometimes-major ways. The initial mystery is compelling, and a third death, later in the story, only heightens the suspense.A well-paced, topical whodunit.
Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2020
Page Count: 315
Publisher: Bard Owl Books
Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2021
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Kathy Reichs ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2020
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
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020
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by Benjamin Stevenson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 17, 2023
This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.
In this mystery, the narrator constantly adds commentary on how the story is constructed.
In 1929, during the golden age of mysteries, a (real-life) writer named Ronald Knox published the “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction,” 10 rules that mystery writers should obey in order to “play fair.” When faced with his own mystery story, our narrator, an author named Ernest Cunningham who "write[s] books about how to write books," feels like he must follow these rules himself. The story seemingly begins on the night his brother Michael calls to ask him to help bury a body—and shows up with the body and a bag containing $267,000. Fast-forward three years, and Ernie’s family has gathered at a ski resort to celebrate Michael’s release from prison. The family dynamics are, to put it lightly, complicated—and that’s before a man shows up dead in the snow and Michael arrives with a coffin in a truck. When the local cop arrests Michael for the murder, things get even more complicated: There are more deaths; Michael tells a story about a coverup involving their father, who was part of a gang called the Sabers; and Ernie still has (most of) the money and isn’t sure whom to trust or what to do with it. Eventually, Ernie puts all the pieces together and gathers the (remaining) family members and various extras for the great denouement. As the plot develops, it becomes clear that there’s a pretty interesting mystery at the heart of this novel, but Stevenson’s postmodern style has Ernie constantly breaking the fourth wall to explain how the structure of his story meets the criteria for a successful detective story. Some readers are drawn to mysteries because they love the formula and logic—this one’s for them. If you like the slow, sometimes-creepy, sometimes-comforting unspooling of a good mystery, it might not be your cup of tea—though the ending, to be fair, is still something of a surprise.This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.
Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Mariner Books
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022
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