A lively satire, a loving homage, and a satisfying whodunit.

NOLAB

In Roth’s debut mystery, two artists attempt to track down a missing trio of young provocateurs.

It’s 2016, and Ray Lawson has settled down after years of making provocative art. Back in 1998, he was escorted out of his exhibition in handcuffs and charged with “practicing medicine without a license” as part of an art project. Nitro, the first exhibition, was comprised of eight specially made pills. “Each pill was a miniature work of art designed to alter perception,” Ray recalls. He refers to a rave review of Nitro in the New York Times in which the critic stated that the exhibit “would make [Dadaist artist Marcel] Duchamp smile.” Now, Ray says, he’s left the “fray” and returned to painting. He teaches at Columbia University and enjoys the relative quiet of his faded celebrity—until an acquaintance from the past interrupts it: Stuart “Pinky” Goldstone, the father of one of Ray’s former grad students. Jeff, Pinky’s son, was a founder of the NoLab art collective, which devoutly followed Ray’s work and created their own impish art projects. Now Jeff and the other two members of NoLab are missing. Pinky pays Ray to look into it, and Ray enlists fellow artist Victor in the sleuthing. Their investigation leads them to the Institute, a cutting-edge arts organization outside of Columbus, Ohio. As Victor and Ray keep digging, NoLab’s latest project takes shape—a project bound to upset some very powerful people. Roth’s novel is at once a sendup and a loving portrait of the fine-art world, and it moves quickly. At the same time, however, it effectively gives Ray time to reflect, and these moments are the highlight of the book. As a narrator, Ray proves to be an eloquent guide: “I never tired of what I witnessed on those streets,” he says of New York City. “Lower Manhattan was my Yosemite, my Galapagos, my Sahara. My La Scala, my Prado, my Bodleian. Every day was a revelation.” Of painting, he observes: “It now seems absurd to me that the one culture I flatly rejected was my own, the one I labored in for so long and knew so much about.”

A lively satire, a loving homage, and a satisfying whodunit.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9985073-8-5

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Owl Canyon Press

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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