Gittins (Secret Shelter, 2015, etc.) takes forever to navigate past the overlong flashbacks that dot the first half of this...

INVESTIGATING MR WAKEFIELD

Gittins’ fourth novel updates the premise of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s memorably enigmatic little fable “Wakefield”—a man abandons his wife on a whim, moves one street away, then returns to her 20 years later on another whim—for the surveillance age.

Jack Connolly has always assumed he can trust Tia, the event planner who’s his frequent partner in business and bed. But maybe that’s just because he’s never thought about it. After all, Jack himself isn’t entirely trustworthy. His star as a noted photojournalist fell with the disclosure that he’d faked an iconic picture. So when he spots Tia in a briefly suggestive pose with Joseph, the co-owner of her agency, he can’t help wondering if she’s got something going. A nasty railroad accident outside London soon gives him his chance. He packs his bags, moves into a hotel, and waits to see how his ladylove reacts to her increasingly sharp suspicion that he was one of the casualties aboard the train. The refinement Jack adds to Hawthorne’s model is a battery of state-of-the-art surveillance devices that allow him to track Tia’s every move and, as long as she stays in their flat, catch well-nigh every facial expression. What he sees tells him that she’s clearly frantic, then genuinely grieved, and that she’s got secrets he’s never suspected. But nothing he sees persuades him to return. Like Hawthorne’s feckless hero, he keeps thinking from moment to moment that he’ll go back. But something keeps coming up to prevent him, mostly in the guise of faces from his past—his ex-lover Natsuo, heavy-handed dilettante Toby Vine, a light-fingered pawnbroker named Ben, and of course Dom, the insinuating surveillance expert—who suddenly turn up on his radar in unsettling new roles.

Gittins (Secret Shelter, 2015, etc.) takes forever to navigate past the overlong flashbacks that dot the first half of this tale. Readers who survive this extended setup, however, will find themselves irresistibly drawn into Jack’s paranoid world of self-induced claustrophobia.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78461-239-9

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Dufour

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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