The prolific Cuffe sisters (Maine’s White Pine Cone Conspiracy, 2015, etc.) have produced another character-driven Christian...

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BLIND MAN'S BLUFF

An inheritance and a threat turn a teacher’s world upside down.

Gwen McPhail’s longest day begins when she’s awakened by a threatening phone call. Then she finds out she won’t be doing her usual teaching at a summer institute. All the while, she frets about her beloved niece Tasha’s engagement to handsome, wealthy, worldly Dalton Madison, a man Gwen doubts shares their Christian moral vision. The biggest surprise of the day comes when she receives a letter telling her she’s inherited an estate on Candle Island from a man she only vaguely remembers as Uncle Jonesy, a friend of her father. Dalton, who has connections on the island, and Tasha go with her to see what turns out to be a mansion much larger than the home Uncle Jonesy left his wife and son. Out of all the house’s many creature comforts, the only one Gwen likes is caretaker Stinson Scott, an attractive, sarcastic, down-to-earth islander who tells her Uncle Jonesy fell to his death from a nearby bluff. Dot Jones and her son, Ron, have good reason to dislike Gwen, whom Dot suspects of being her late husband’s lover. As Gwen meets more of the locals, she becomes more enamored of the people and the island, though still not the oversized house, and hatches a plan to give it all back to the widow. Dalton, by contrast, loves the house and looks forward to settling down there. He even invites his family for a visit. Although Gwen likes Dalton’s mother well enough, the time they spend together only reinforces her doubts about the differences in their values and lifestyles. Gwen must unravel the mystery of Uncle Jonesy’s death and his strange bequests before she can find the peace she seeks for herself and Tasha.

The prolific Cuffe sisters (Maine’s White Pine Cone Conspiracy, 2015, etc.) have produced another character-driven Christian cozy better enjoyed for its romance than its slight mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4328-3256-8

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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