It's becoming abundantly clear that gifted Mr. Parker is no longer interested in devising mysteries or even much action/adventure for Boston's macho-sensitive shamus Spenser. Indeed, the three Spenser-novel elements—mystery, comedy, sentiment (i.e. what is a real man?)—have been shifting their proportions around dramatically of late, and this time it's 75% sentiment, 25% comedy. . . and just about zilch in the detection department. Still, Parker is sincere and skillful enough to make his rather smug scenario here—an alienated teenage boy's coming-of-age, thanks to Spenser's sterling tutelage—intermittently heartwarming. The boy is shrugging, sluggish, TV-addicted Paul Giacomon, 15-year-old victim of the post-divorce hostilities between his shady-dealing father and his sex-hungry mother. Originally hired to rescue and then protect kidnapped Paul from the father (who doesn't really want the kid), Spenser is soon convinced that both parents "are shit," with no interest in the boy; and so begins Paul's "early autumn"—a crash course, up in the Maine wilderness, in how to be "autonomous." Bodybuilding, reading (no TV), music, how to make choices, how to dress, what to eat: soon Paul is improving terrifically (though Spenser's lady Susan is hostile to the whole project at first). And when Paul's parents object to what has now become a virtual kidnapping, Spenser gets the goods on them (Dad's insurance seams, Mom's promiscuity) and blackmails them into leaving the kid alone and paying for his schooling. So, finally, Paul is really on his own—sturdy enough to get interested in ballet and go off to a ritzy prep school. True, the kidnaps and the insurance-seam investigation do involve a bit of sleuthing and violence. Otherwise, however, this is basically a father-substitute-and-son concoction that's closer to Kramer vs. Kramer than The Maltese Falcon—disappointing for mystery lovers, nice enough (with a fair number of well-earned laughs along the way) for those tolerant of Parker's particular brand of tough-guy treacle.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 1980

ISBN: 0440122147

Page Count: 207

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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

Did you like this book?

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...


Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

Did you like this book?