Clark’s second fictional slice of St. Paul history (In the Deep Midwinter, 1997) goes back to 1939—and the most tender account of a sex-killing investigation you’ll ever read. If it weren’t for his size and his limping gait, making him look like an overgrown teddy bear, no one would ever notice Herbert White, an inoffensive clerk at Griggs-Horner whose only pleasures in life are the letters he writes to an indifferent Hollywood starlet; the copious journals he keeps as an attempt to compensate for his flawed memory—he can remember yesterday, and his childhood, but not much in between—and his photography sessions with the women he meets at the Aragon Ballroom. When one of his models, Carla Marie LaBreque (nÇe Charlene Mortenson), is strangled, Homicide Lt. Wesley Horner questions White and even finds some promising evidence against him. But all too soon it’s clear that the lead is a dead end; as the Aragon survivors agree, White couldn’t harm a soul. But then a second Aragon dancer is found murdered, and witnesses place White at the scene. By this time, he can’t remember meeting Wesley before; he certainly can’t remember either killing or not killing Ruby Fahey; and he’s a ready target for a bullying Vice cop who’s eager to euchre him into a confession, sign Wesley’s name as witness, and send him to prison for life. By the time Wesley, whose fragile romance with a teenaged runaway mirrors White’s own stumbling attempts at intimacy, rouses himself on White’s behalf, the story seems headed toward an inescapably melodramatic climax. But because Clark’s true subject isn’t the mystery of the Aragon dancers’ murders (wound up in a brilliantly offhand sentence), but the sovereign power of memory to nurture desires that would otherwise never survive, his closing scenes amount instead to a transfiguration of his decent, tempest-tossed heroes. Despite its florid subject, then: a gently, powerfully moving demonstration of the ways, as White concludes, that “we are but memory enfleshed by love.” (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-19217-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998


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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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