A sinister cult, political payoffs, hard-core sex tapes, stories about child abuse and one of the most stressed-out...

CORRUPT PRACTICES

Not content with ruining a Los Angeles law firm financially, a powerful religious cult now seems intent on killing off the firm’s former partners.

Parker Stern was never close to Richard Baxter, and when Rich left Macklin & Cherry and took the lucrative business of the Church of the Sanctified Assembly with him, bringing the firm to its knees, Parker wrote him off. But he can’t refuse to take on his defense when Rich phones him from prison after the Assembly accuses him of embezzling millions—even though Parker’s had an incapacitating case of situational glossophobia that’s prevented him from speaking in court ever since the suicide of his mentor, Harmon Cherry, several weeks ago. When Rich, a former true believer who’s made wild accusations concerning the Assembly’s own sins and insisted that Harmon Cherry was murdered to cover them up, misses his initial court appearance because he’s apparently hanged himself in his cell, Parker wonders if two suicides are two too many—whether both Harmon and Rich were murdered by agents of the Assembly. And when Rich’s father, Raymond, hit by the Assembly with a multimillion-dollar suit over Rich’s estate, asks Parker to take the case, he hands him the perfect base from which to launch his assault against oily PR chief Christopher McCarthy, hired legal gun Louis Frantz, film star–turned-Congressman Lake Knolls and everyone else in LA County. But first-timer Rotstein, an entertainment lawyer, isn’t content with that battle; he spices the mix with Parker’s past as a child actor, his turbulent relationship with his mother, who grabbed his earnings years ago and donated them to the Assembly, and his unlikely and unethical romance with one of the law school students helping him on the case. Not to mention the question of whether he’ll ever be able to raise his voice above a squeak before the bench.

A sinister cult, political payoffs, hard-core sex tapes, stories about child abuse and one of the most stressed-out attorneys you’ll ever see. It’s hard to imagine what Rotstein has kept in reserve for the sequel.

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61614-791-4

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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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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The perfect gift for well-read mystery mavens who complain that they don’t write them like they used to.

EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS

A ghoulish killer brings a Boston bookseller’s list of perfect fictional murders to life—that is, to repeated, emphatic death.

The Red House Mystery, Malice Aforethought, The A.B.C. Murders, Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Drowner, Deathtrap, The Secret History: They may not be the best mysteries, reflects Malcolm Kershaw, but they feature the most undetectable murders, as he wrote on a little-read blog post when he was first hired at Old Devils Bookstore. Now that he owns the store with mostly silent partner Brian Murray, a semifamous mystery writer, that post has come back to haunt him. FBI agent Gwen Mulvey has observed at least three unsolved murders, maybe more, that seem to take their cues from the stories on Mal’s list. What does he think about possible links among them? she wonders. The most interesting thing he thinks is something he’s not going to share with her: He’s hiding a secret that would tie him even more closely to that list than she imagines. And while Mal is fretting about what he can do to help stop the violence without tipping his own hand, the killer, clearly untrammeled by any such scruples, continues down the list of fictional blueprints for perfect murders. Swanson (Before She Knew Him, 2019, etc.) jumps the shark early from genre thrills to metafictional puzzles, but despite a triple helping of cleverness that might seem like a fatal overdose, the pleasures of following, and trying to anticipate, a narrator who’s constantly second- and third-guessing himself and everyone around him are authentic and intense. If the final revelations are anticlimactic, that’s only because you wish the mounting complications, like a magician’s showiest routine, could go on forever.

The perfect gift for well-read mystery mavens who complain that they don’t write them like they used to.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-283820-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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