THE SHY TULIP MURDERS

Dr. Claire Sharples, a microbiologist working as farm advisor at a research station in the California Sierras (The Dandelion Murders, 1994, etc.), is not a happy camper. Her little cabin is falling apart; her botanist coworker Sam, a divorced father of two, has dropped her for the more motherly Linda; and someone has put nails in the tires and loosened the brakes of her new Toyota. Meanwhile, battles are being fought over tree-cutting areas, with Nelson Pringle, head of the forest service district, rumored to be in the deep pockets of lumber biggie Gene Doughty. A frightened Claire joins Friends of the Redwoods, a group sparked by rich, vivacious, near-promiscuous Marcy Hobbes, whose Jaguar has also been vandalized. It's Claire's misfortune, while searching for a rare tulip in a remote area, to come across an unconscious Marcy, who dies days later in the hospital. Police Chief Tom Martelli treats the death as an accident, and obnoxious Sheriff J.T. Cummings deals perfunctorily with a second death—that of forest- service worker Andy Nilsson. It takes Claire, on her own, to ferret out the unconvincing villain, and to see that justice is done, after a fashion. At times jauntily written but often pretentious, with a heroine not fully centered (in the New Agespeak generously so sprinkled here), much aimless roaming up and down the mountain, and reams of botanical lore. All add little to an unfocused puzzle. Rather dreary stuff, then, except perhaps to environmental enthusiasts.

Pub Date: May 14, 1996

ISBN: 0-89296-607-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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Tepid terrors along the way to a mildly surprising end.

JUST ONE LOOK

Suburban thriller from the prolific Coben (No Second Chance, 2002, etc.), about a perfect husband who disappears when a photo from the past shows up in the latest batch from the photomat.

Perfectly in love since their romantic meeting in France 15 years earlier, Jack and Grace Lawson are living the suburban dream: Windstar, Saab, daughter, son. He makes lots of money, she makes lots of art. There is a teeny flaw. Grace limps. It’s the scar she bears from the trauma she endured before the trip to France. There was this rock concert. Shots were fired. Panic. Deaths. Heroism. Cowardice. Badly mangled Grace made it out of a coma with a week or two of memory gone and a healthy dislike of big crowds. Suddenly the superperfect life she has built from the ruins has gone off the rails. Tucked in among a set of newly developed photos is a snap taken sometime in the ’80s. It shows a group of young people, possibly hip for the decade, and one of the lads, while hairier and callower, is clearly Jack. The insertion could only have been at the hands of the slacker in the Kodak kiosk, but he’s disappeared. And, upon viewing the photo, so has Jack, leaving Grace to ask that old reliable story-starting question: “Just who is this man I thought I knew?” Answers must be found quickly, for handsome Jack has been captured by a cold-blooded, sadistic, Korean killer and lies senseless in the boot of the stolen family minivan. Detective assistance comes from a rogue District Attorney, a wacky girlfriend, a lovelorn neighbor, a tough Jewish cop with a hole in his heart where his wife used to be, a shadowy, powerful mob guy whose son died at the rock concert, and possibly from Jimmy X, the rocker whose concert seems to have started the present subdivisional mayhem all those years ago.

Tepid terrors along the way to a mildly surprising end.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-525-94791-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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Locke, having stockpiled an acclaimed array of crime novels (Pleasantville, 2015, etc.), deserves a career breakthrough for...

BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD

What appears at first to be a double hate crime in a tiny Texas town turns out to be much more complicated—and more painful—than it seems.

With a degree from Princeton and two years of law school under his belt, Darren Mathews could have easily taken his place among the elite of African-American attorneys. Instead, he followed his uncle’s lead to become a Texas Ranger. “What is it about that damn badge?” his estranged wife, Lisa, asks. “It was never intended for you.” Darren often wonders if she’s right but nonetheless finds his badge useful “for working homicides with a racial element—murders with a particularly ugly taint.” The East Texas town of Lark is small enough to drive through “in the time it [takes] to sneeze,” but it’s big enough to have had not one, but two such murders. One of the victims is a black lawyer from Chicago, the kind of crusader-advocate Darren could have been if he’d stayed on his original path; the other is a young white woman, a local resident. Both battered bodies were found in a nearby bayou. His job already jeopardized by his role in a race-related murder case in another part of the state, Darren eases his way into Lark, where even his presence is enough to raise hackles among both the town’s white and black residents; some of the latter, especially, seem reluctant and evasive in their conversations with him. Besides their mysterious resistance, Darren also has to deal with a hostile sheriff, the white supremacist husband of the dead woman, and the dead lawyer’s moody widow, who flies into town with her own worst suspicions as to what her husband was doing down there. All the easily available facts imply some sordid business that could cause the whole town to explode. But the deeper Darren digs into the case, encountering lives steeped in his home state’s musical and social history, the more he begins to distrust his professional—and personal—instincts.

Locke, having stockpiled an acclaimed array of crime novels (Pleasantville, 2015, etc.), deserves a career breakthrough for this deftly plotted whodunit whose writing pulses throughout with a raw, blues-inflected lyricism.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-36329-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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