Relentless pacing, tight plotting, and a brainy, idiosyncratic new hero make this one a winner.

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CITY OF WINDOWS

The FBI brings in astrophysicist, amputee, and former agent Dr. Lucas Page when a sniper takes aim in the middle of a New York blizzard.

It’s almost Christmas, and Columbia professor Lucas Page is looking forward to getting away from his students and spending a couple of weeks with his wife, Erin, a pediatric surgeon, and their four, soon to be five, adoptive children. It’s not to be. A sniper has killed Lucas’ old FBI partner, Doug Hartke, and Special Agent in Charge Brett Kehoe asks Lucas to use his unusual talent to tell him where the shot came from. It’s been a decade since the incident that nearly killed Lucas and cost him an arm, a leg, and an eye, but he can still pull off what, to others, seems like an impossible trick: In a blink, he can see the city as a “matrix of interconnected digits, a mosaic of numbers that stretched to the horizon.” It’s a singular talent that makes him a hot commodity in what turns out to be a doozy of a case. After all, making the shot that killed Doug Hartke “would be like trying to thread a needle while riding a mechanical bull set to Motörhead.” The eerily talented sniper continues to take out cops at an inhuman pace, and the FBI has a suspect, but Lucas doesn’t believe they’ve got the right guy and enlists a few of his sharpest students to help him find a connection between the victims. The cat-and-mouse game that follows takes Lucas to his limits and beyond and puts his family firmly in the crosshairs. Investing in Dr. Lucas Page and his extraordinary family is ridiculously easy, and, crankiness aside, he has a solid core of decency that shines through. Lucas is surrounded by genuinely interesting supporting characters, such as his de facto partner Agent Whitaker, who has a preternatural talent for anticipating what Lucas is thinking, and Dingo, a fellow amputee and former BBC combat photographer who lives over the Pages’ garage. Keep an eye out for a heart-pounding sequence involving Dingo and an actual broadsword. Pobi’s (American Woman, 2014, etc.) keen attention to the mechanics and challenges involved in having multiple prostheses is a plus, although readers will have to wait to find out more about the incident that caused Lucas’ life-altering injuries.

Relentless pacing, tight plotting, and a brainy, idiosyncratic new hero make this one a winner.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-29394-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE

Murder and mayhem plague a film set on a secluded island off the coast of Delaware in Little’s (Dear Daughter, 2015, etc.) sophomore thriller.

When film editor Marissa Dahl takes a job on a new film directed by the talented but temperamental Tony Rees, she’s not given a script and must sign a mile-long nondisclosure agreement. It’s not ideal, but she needs the work. Escorted by an attractive ex–Navy SEAL named Isaiah, Marissa arrives on Kickout Island to find a bustling set, headquartered at a beautiful hotel, that is cloaked in secrecy and beset with dysfunction. Once Marissa gets down to work, she realizes that picking up the slack from the previous editor, who was fired for unknown reasons, won’t be smooth sailing and that the movie is based on the real-life unsolved murder of aspiring actress Caitlyn Kelly 25 years ago on that very island. Most folks assume that an eccentric ferry captain named Billy Lyle, a friend of Caitlyn’s, was the killer, but there was never enough evidence to convict. A few people, however, think he may be innocent. Marissa sets out to discover what really happened to Caitlyn with the help of Isaiah and two intrepid, tech-savvy 13-year-olds—Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, whose parents work for the hotel. What she finds is a dead body and a whole lot of trouble. Readers fascinated with the behind-the-scenes machinations of a movie set will be enthralled, plus there’s a frisson of romantic tension between Isaiah and Marissa, and the island setting lends some spooky atmosphere. Snippets from Grace and Suzy’s true-crime podcast, Dead Ringer, are also sprinkled throughout. Though a killer on the loose adds a fair bit of urgency in the second half, the main focus is on Little’s singular narrator. Marissa relates to the world primarily through film and considers herself anything but typical: “It’s possible I’ve spent so much time watching movies that the language of film has infiltrated some primal, necessary part of my brain. I catch myself processing my own emotions in scenes, in shots, in dialogue.”

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-670-01639-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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