Helms (Thunder Moon, 2011, etc.), himself a retired forensic psychologist, delivers authenticity, a refreshingly offbeat...

THE UNRESOLVED SEVENTH

A forensic psychologist must decide if a confessed murderer can be brought to trial.

His brilliance undiminished, perhaps even enhanced, by Asperger syndrome, Ben Long is at the top of his field when he suddenly packs it all in. Goodbye Asheville district attorney’s office; hello academe and a welcome new challenge. Over the next four years, Ben discovers how much he enjoys teaching—until his good friend and former colleague, Asheville DA Sidney Kingsley, pleads for Ben’s help on a high-profile headache of a case. Earl Torrence, 26, has murdered Amber Coolidge, his older brother’s fiancee, Kingsley tells Ben. The evidence is just about incontrovertible, and Torrence has signed a confession. Still, a clever attorney could dazzle a jury with Torrence, who “looks like he was born to play Lenny in Of Mice and Men.” The issue, of course, is competency in a capital case, and Kingsley needs Ben to prove that Torrence has sufficient mental capacity to stand trial. At first, Ben resists. He’s out and wants to stay out for reasons Kingsley knows full well. But then Kingsley plays the “clever attorney card,” attaching it to a man Ben despises, and the Paula Paige card, named for the charming law clerk who’d be assigned to Ben for the duration. They’re both game-changers.

Helms (Thunder Moon, 2011, etc.), himself a retired forensic psychologist, delivers authenticity, a refreshingly offbeat protagonist, a neatly crafted puzzle and even a quirky little love story: a lot to like.

Pub Date: April 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4328-2587-4

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Five Star/Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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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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