An intermittently amusing pastiche by a talented writer trying too hard this time out.

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GOOSE MUSIC

Crazy-quilt tale of a doughnut heir with a hole in his head, by the author of Life in the Rainbow (1996).

Doughnut magnate Joseph Siconski, dead at 74, leaves the bulk of his multimillion-dollar estate to daughter Mary and older son Charlie, the former generally regarded as being several cards short of a full deck, the latter unseen by any family member for five years. Charlie's disappearance remains a mystery, but younger brother Leslie's disappearance from the patriarch's will is no great surprise: father and son had grown to detest each other. Unexpectedly, however, Leslie turns up at the funeral and lingers with Mary and her husband, Colin Gallagher, for a few days afterward. Though his recent past is enigmatic to say the least, Leslie in the flesh proves an affable sort, and the visit is so congenial that the Gallaghers entertain notions of parceling off some of their largesse on Leslie's behalf. Then suddenly there's a phone call from the tiny town of Baraboo in the northern reaches of Wisconsin, after which nothing is the same. Detective McNutt reports that he thinks he's found Charlie's body. Off goes Leslie on a journey that plunges him into a kind of Never-Never Land where identity is certainly a sometime thing. Charlie's identity, for instance: some remember him as an accomplished amateur circus clown; others worshipped him as a Native American god. Perhaps he was both. Or conceivably neither. Leslie takes charge of his brother's body, subsequently finds his hidden journals, and learns that the surprising, underestimated Charlie loved three beautiful women, fathered two children, and was murdered by Buffalo Bill Cody. Or not.

An intermittently amusing pastiche by a talented writer trying too hard this time out.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58642-017-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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