A laudable protagonist who can easily carry another book, one with a bit more mystery and intrigue.

High Jinks in High Places

Investigators delve into a case involving possible international espionage and a heart attack that’s looking more like murder in this thriller.

Private eye Jordan Anderson’s latest client is Sasha Goldman, an executive secretary at U.S. Navy contractor Kingman Corporation. Sasha’s worried that boss Shaun O’Riley’s uncharacteristically furtive behavior (for example, daily private meetings) indicates that something illegal is happening at the company. There’s also the mysterious cargo intended for Kingman’s Seattle warehouse that inexplicably wound up in Afghanistan. Jordan sees potential for information via George Kilburn, investigator for the Senate oversight committee, who Sasha says met with Shaun. A mutual friend sets Jordan and George up on a date, but Jordan, slyly extracting intelligence, so impresses George that he hires her. The cargo, it turns out, was transporting a military security system, and George believes Jordan can work covertly under the pretense of investigating an employee’s complaint. The two first check out Chester Rafferty, the disbursement officer who died of a heart attack shortly before the cargo’s shipping date. No history of heart problems makes Chester’s death suspicious, of course, while Boris Urich, Chester’s replacement, may have a few too many secrets in his past. At the same time, Jordan and George’s professional relationship leads to romance, making her nervous when he heads to Afghanistan—and maybe toward danger. The novel is a breezy, unhurried mystery. With Boris the strongest suspect, Barrett (New Beginnings, 2013) concentrates on the investigation, even Sasha’s seemingly trivial Internet search involving a probable accomplice. There are definitely plot turns, including Boris’ motive (other than theft). But the likable Jordan gets a little too much praise from George and others when most of what she does is basic research—a mere perusal of the autopsy report is noticeably revealing. Still, camaraderie among the characters makes the good guys engaging, particularly when nearly every gathering to recap the case is an excuse for a restaurant outing. And while piecing together the evidence is a slow process, so is the developing intimacy between Jordan and George—kisses whose measured but increasing intensity is certainly worthwhile.

A laudable protagonist who can easily carry another book, one with a bit more mystery and intrigue.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4582-1935-0

Page Count: 214

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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 suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...


Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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