Sensitive but unimpressive. The early paranoid previsions of all-too-contemporary fears about immigrants just aren’t enough...

PARIS IN THE DARK

November 1915 finds Butler’s durable war correspondent/secret agent Christopher Marlowe Cobb expecting some time away from cloak and dagger. Fate, the Germans, and his boss have other plans.

Despite the pleas of the Foreign Office and the manifest inability of the British and French to win the Great War on their own, Woodrow Wilson is stubbornly keeping the U.S. on the sidelines. But of course there’s nothing to prevent Kit (The Empire of Night, 2014, etc.) from sending the Chicago Post-Express inspiring tales of Americans like John Barrington Lacey, Cyrus Parsons, and Jefferson Jones, who’ve volunteered to serve as ambulance drivers. Kit’s relatively sedate plans of riding along with these drivers and getting them to pour their hearts out are upended by a bombing at the Terminus Hôtel and the promise of more. James Polk Trask, the head of the American Secret Service, thinks Kit would be the perfect candidate to infiltrate the ranks of recent German immigrants who may secretly be saboteurs. It’s hard to share his confidence, since the first person Kit suspects of heading the saboteurs is vindicated in a spectacularly abrupt way, and his second suspect disappears while Kit is supposed to be keeping an eye on him. Luckily for Kit, he’s far more successful at romancing Louise Pickering, a New England–born nurse who’s just as wary of strangers as he is and just as susceptible to high-flown sentiments. As for the rest, readers who don’t know how World War I turned out will find no spoilers and precious little espionage. Paris isn’t the only thing in the dark here.

Sensitive but unimpressive. The early paranoid previsions of all-too-contemporary fears about immigrants just aren’t enough to lift Butler’s latest above the crowd of stiff-upper-lip period tales of the War to End All Wars.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2837-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

HOUR GAME

A serial killer with a sense of history is the baddie in this latest from Baldacci, one of the reigning kings of potboilers (Split Second, 2003, etc.).

He kills, he leaves clues, he flatters through imitation: Son of Sam, the San Francisco Zodiac killer, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gracy, and so on down a sanguinary list of accredited members of the Monsters’ Hall of Fame. Suddenly, the landscape of poor little Wrightsburg, Virginia, is littered with corpses, and ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have their hands full. That’s because bewildered, beleaguered Chief of Police Todd Williams has turned to the newly minted private investigating firm of King and Maxwell for desperately needed (unofficial) help. Even these ratiocinative wizards, however, admit to puzzlement. “But I'm not getting this,” says Michelle. “Why commit murders in similar styles to past killers as a copycat would and then write letters making it clear you’re not them?” Excellent question, and it goes pretty much unanswered. Never mind—enter the battling Battles, a family with the requisite number of sins and secrets to qualify fully as hot southern Gothic and to prop up a plot in need. Bobby Battles, the patriarch, is bedridden, but Remmy, his wife, is one lively mischief-making steel magnolia. She’s brought breaking-and-entering charges against decent local handyman Junior Deaver, who as a result languishes in the county jail. Convinced of his innocence, Junior’s lawyer hires King & Maxwell to sniff around for exculpatory evidence. Well, will the two plot streams flow together? You betcha. Will the copycat-serial-killer at one point decide that King and Maxwell are just too clever to live? Inevitably. And when at last that CCSK’s identity is revealed and his crimes explained (talkily and tediously), will readers be satisfied? Only the charitable among them.

Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2004

ISBN: 0-446-53108-1

Page Count: 440

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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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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