A persistently gripping thriller with strong characters.

THE LOVE KILLINGS

From the Detective Matt Jones series , Vol. 2

A Los Angeles detective heads to the East Coast to help the FBI track down a serial killer in this sequel.

Weeks after Detective Matt Jones survives an assassination attempt, his supervisor calls him back to work. It seems Dr. George Baylor, a serial killer from one of Matt’s cases, has murdered a family just outside Philadelphia. Though the crime doesn’t match Baylor’s M.O., cops discovered his fingerprints at the scene. Matt joins an FBI task force and works closely with agent Kate Brown. At the same time, he’s contemplating revenge against the culprit who hired the hit man. Unfortunately, Matt’s investigation is complicated by his certainty that several people are withholding information, and he furthermore spots someone regularly following him. But the murder of a second family and an encounter with an armed Baylor ultimately convince Matt that the doctor isn’t the killer—at least not in the Philadelphia area. But some of those taking part in the probe keep Baylor as the No. 1 suspect even when later evidence counters that theory. Matt picks up startling details, including the reason for his inclusion on the task force as well as specifics on his murky family history, but he’s steadfast in hunting a killer. Ellis (City of Echoes, 2015, etc.) eases new readers into the second Matt-centric novel (although he spoils some of the first installment’s twists). Having previously suffered betrayal, Matt has good reason to be paranoid, which results in a gleefully tense sequel as he quickly notices someone watching him. His relationships are complex: There’s potential romance with Kate, but the two must remain professional, and Baylor is apparently more intent on aiding Matt than harming him. Despite such intricacies, the mystery is straightforward, and Matt’s propensity for repeatedly asking himself questions keeps him (and readers) focused. The author’s writing is tight but descriptive. Though the prose is never unduly graphic, some of the murderer’s actions will likely make some readers queasy. The ending effectively sets the stage for the next installment.

A persistently gripping thriller with strong characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5039-5274-4

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2019

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

BADLANDS

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

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