A mixed bag from veteran novelist (Grace, 1998, etc.) and TV writer (Hill Street Blues, etc.) Ward. There are several funny...

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FOUR KINDS OF RAIN

A down-and-out psychiatrist puts together a ragtag gang to rob one of his clients in this comic caper.

Bob Wells finds himself trapped in a mind-numbing routine and sliding into financial ruin. His marriage recently broke up after 22 years, thanks to his excessive gambling, exacerbated by drink. Suddenly, he’s alone in his mid-50s, living in a dumpy house in a shabby Baltimore neighborhood and scraping together a living as a freelance psychiatric social worker. Both the stream of new clients and the options for obtaining research grants are evaporating. Drinking has become a habit again, and Bob finds himself tempted to gamble. His only pleasure comes on Thursday nights, when he plays with his oldies band, the Rockaholics. They hire a young blonde singer named Jesse Reardon and, for Bob, it’s love at first sight. He fights the attraction for weeks, but when Jesse confesses her love for him, Bob surrenders to his bliss, which soon gives way to doubt and desperation. Jesse declares that she loves his success, but could never care for a guy who was broke. Bob has one wealthy client, the pampered and highly neurotic Emile Bardan, an antiquities dealer whose latest obsession is a priceless Sumerian sun-god mask. Emile is convinced that his archenemy, Colin Edwards, whom he’s convinced murdered his friend Peter, is scheming to steal the mask. Bob puts together a scheme of his own, to improve his financial position by stealing the mask himself and selling it to Edwards. What begins as a simple plan, however, balloons into a complicated challenge. The heist goes not at all as planned, changing Bob’s life forever.

A mixed bag from veteran novelist (Grace, 1998, etc.) and TV writer (Hill Street Blues, etc.) Ward. There are several funny setups and quirky characters, but the prose often strains for humor and edge.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-35780-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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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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