As usual, the characters are forgettable, the mystery perfunctory, and the solution unremarkable. But Goldsborough works a...

THE BATTERED BADGE

Nero Wolfe goes to work on behalf of the most unlikely person ever: Inspector Lionel T. Cramer, head of NYPD Homicide.

It’s not bad enough that Lester Pierce, executive director of the Good Government Group, has been gunned down in front of his Park Avenue co-op; since Pierce had been vocally critical of Cramer, the inspector’s put on administrative leave and replaced with Capt. George Rowcliff, Wolfe’s least favorite cop. It’s hard to believe that things could get worse, but they do. When Wolfe, who’d love to see Cramer, despite their differences over the years (Murder, Stage Left, 2017, etc.), back on the job, asks nonpareil operative Saul Panzer to make some discreet inquiries, they’re not discreet enough to keep Saul from getting beaten up by a pair of thugs who can’t believe this guy thought the Pierce killing could have been a mob hit. His dander up, Wolfe has his faithful legman, Archie Goodwin, make the rounds of the most likely suspects who aren’t mobbed-up: Pierce’s dry-eyed widow, Audra Kingston Pierce; their well-to-do children, Malcolm, Marianne, and Mark; Malcolm's and Mark’s wives; and Roland Marchbank and Laura Cordwell, both of whom had reason to believe they’d succeed Pierce as boss of Three–G. Long before a client willing to pay Wolfe emerges from the shadows, Cramer’s been spotted in a restaurant meeting with underworld kingpin Ralph Mars; it’s only a matter of time before news of the meeting gets out, sinking Cramer even deeper. The good news for longtime fans of Rex Stout’s corpulent detective is that Goldsborough’s Wolfe really does sound like Wolfe; the bad news is that many other characters—especially Archie, who spends most of his time on the phone with New York Gazette writer/editor Lon Cohen—sound like him, too.

As usual, the characters are forgettable, the mystery perfunctory, and the solution unremarkable. But Goldsborough works a nifty change on the climactic gathering of suspects for the big reveal that’s worth the price of admission all on its own.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5040-4910-8

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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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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