Even so, fans of acid domestic intrigue as only the British can serve it up will rejoice in the republication of this minor...

THE MURDER OF MY AUNT

The latest exhumation from the British Library of Crime Classics is the 1934 debut of the pseudonymous Richard Henry Sampson (1896–1973), a deliciously black comedy of murder most botched.

Anticipating by more than 20 years the classic Ealing comedy The Ladykillers, Hull presents the salt-and-cyanide duo of Edward Powell, a smugly unemployed dilettante of refined literary tastes, supercilious dialogue, and overweening vanity, and Mildred Powell, his maiden aunt, guardian under his grandmother’s will, and housemate in Brynmawr, outside the Welsh village of Llwll, a spot that’s either perfectly lovely or suffocatingly parochial, depending whom you ask. Even the most routine conversations between the two as they discuss, for example, whether Edward will be obliged to walk all the way to the village to pick up the latest parcel of French novels he’s ordered, are rife with such provocation on both sides as they scheme to secure the most minute psychic advantages over each other that even without the title, you’d know it would be only a matter of time before Edward decided that his life would be much richer, freer, and more untroubled without Aunt Mildred. Unfortunately, his initial attempt on her life, cleverly conceived as it is, doesn’t quite go according to plan. Now Edward must deal not only with the suspicion that will naturally fall on him if he’s successful and the fact that every soul in Llwll seems fully apprised of everyone else’s business and obsessed with the possibility of learning even more, but with the likelihood that Aunt Mildred has the wind up and that, as she repeatedly warns him, any future such activities on his part will force her to “take action.” A child could see where this is all heading.

Even so, fans of acid domestic intrigue as only the British can serve it up will rejoice in the republication of this minor classic despite an overlong last chapter that reveals the murderous narrator as even more witless, and his target as even more resourceful, than readers already knew.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4642-0973-4

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE

Murder and mayhem plague a film set on a secluded island off the coast of Delaware in Little’s (Dear Daughter, 2015, etc.) sophomore thriller.

When film editor Marissa Dahl takes a job on a new film directed by the talented but temperamental Tony Rees, she’s not given a script and must sign a mile-long nondisclosure agreement. It’s not ideal, but she needs the work. Escorted by an attractive ex–Navy SEAL named Isaiah, Marissa arrives on Kickout Island to find a bustling set, headquartered at a beautiful hotel, that is cloaked in secrecy and beset with dysfunction. Once Marissa gets down to work, she realizes that picking up the slack from the previous editor, who was fired for unknown reasons, won’t be smooth sailing and that the movie is based on the real-life unsolved murder of aspiring actress Caitlyn Kelly 25 years ago on that very island. Most folks assume that an eccentric ferry captain named Billy Lyle, a friend of Caitlyn’s, was the killer, but there was never enough evidence to convict. A few people, however, think he may be innocent. Marissa sets out to discover what really happened to Caitlyn with the help of Isaiah and two intrepid, tech-savvy 13-year-olds—Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, whose parents work for the hotel. What she finds is a dead body and a whole lot of trouble. Readers fascinated with the behind-the-scenes machinations of a movie set will be enthralled, plus there’s a frisson of romantic tension between Isaiah and Marissa, and the island setting lends some spooky atmosphere. Snippets from Grace and Suzy’s true-crime podcast, Dead Ringer, are also sprinkled throughout. Though a killer on the loose adds a fair bit of urgency in the second half, the main focus is on Little’s singular narrator. Marissa relates to the world primarily through film and considers herself anything but typical: “It’s possible I’ve spent so much time watching movies that the language of film has infiltrated some primal, necessary part of my brain. I catch myself processing my own emotions in scenes, in shots, in dialogue.”

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-670-01639-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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