Grandly entertaining piffle.

PLAY TO THE END

A fading actor is the latest of Goddard’s heroes-in-distress to reach this shore in a suavely paranoid tale first published in the U.K. in 2004.

What could be worse than headlining a lost Joe Orton play in a production that’s clearly destined to expire in Brighton before ever reaching London? Toby Flood finds out when his soon-to-be-ex-wife Jenny rings him up to ask his help in getting rid of a man who seems to have staked out her millinery shop. Accosted by Toby, meek Derek Oswin agrees to stop haunting Jenny’s shop, but then returns after all and insists that Toby has only one chance to learn more about his motives: a rendezvous that will require Toby to skip a performance of the Orton play. Toby’s absence infuriates his director and producer and ends up placing his understudy in serious jeopardy. What’s worse, though, is what he learns about Jenny’s intended, Roger Colborn. According to Derek, Roger swindled his brother and sister out of their shares of the family plastics firm, then sold off its principal asset and yanked the company out from under its loyal employees, many of them suffering from plastics-related cancers. Soon after these dire revelations, Derek vanishes, and a sudden death leaves Toby wondering just how far Roger will go to refute Derek’s stories before Jenny pulls out of their upcoming marriage. In less than a week, he’ll have his answer in the form of an increasingly intricate series of plots designed to discredit him. Roger is suitably monstrous, and Goddard unfolds the mystery layer by doomy layer in a gratifyingly professional way. But why, oh why, is Toby, like every other Goddard hero (Borrowed Time, 2006, etc.), so determined to get himself into deeper trouble by expositing himself to a more fiendish frame-up at every genteel step?

Grandly entertaining piffle.

Pub Date: May 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-33918-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delta

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

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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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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