If it weren’t for the proper names and historical references, fans would never know they were reading a continuation of one...

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If it weren’t for the proper names and historical references, fans would never know they were reading a continuation of one of the 20th century’s great detective franchises.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