If it weren’t for the proper names and historical references, fans would never know they were reading a continuation of one...

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DEATH OF AN ART COLLECTOR

Everyone in Manhattan’s art world, from Frank Lloyd Wright on down, seems to be pressing Nero Wolfe to determine whether a wealthy collector fell or was pushed out of his office window.

A dinner to preview the 1959 opening of the Guggenheim Museum for its upper-crust patrons introduces Archie Goodwin, who’s accompanying his philanthropist girlfriend, Lily Rowan, to the soon-to-be-deceased Arthur Wordell, the father of Lily’s friend Nadia, and most of the intimates who seem fated to rub him the wrong way: biographer Faith Richmond, Art & Artists publisher Emory Sterling, curator at large Henry Banks, fine arts professor Boyd Tatum, abstract expressionist painter Zondra Zagreb, and Roger Mason, mopey curator of the Wordell collection. The only suspect missing from the group is Alexis Evans Farrell Wordell, the long-estranged wife who’s evidently hoping her refusal to divorce the collector will put her first in line if he dies intestate, as he obligingly does by tumbling 20 stories from the nondescript midtown office window in which he’s wont to perch to the parking lot below. Nadia, who’s convinced her father’s death was neither accident nor suicide, importunes Wolfe (The Battered Badge, 2018, etc.) to investigate. So does Alexis, who makes no secret of the fact that she thinks Nadia is responsible. And so does Wright, famed architect of the Guggenheim, who thinks Wolfe owes it to the city to take the case without a fee. Remarkably, Wright’s visit to Wolfe’s brownstone is no more remarkable than any of the other visits he gets from suspects, some at their insistence, some at his. No clues emerge from their conversations; no one in particular is implicated; and everyone sounds so much like everyone else that you may forget who’s sitting in the red leather chair this time. When it’s time for the big reveal, Wolfe summons all interested parties, tosses out some vague remarks that could implicate anyone, and enjoys the dubious satisfaction of seeing the killer snap like a week-old breadstick. As if.

If it weren’t for the proper names and historical references, fans would never know they were reading a continuation of one of the 20th century’s great detective franchises.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5040-5754-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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