A confident, meticulously detailed mystery that would have made Shirley’s pipe-smoking idol proud.



A female sleuth and her assistant investigate a case involving a vicious dog attack in the debut novel from de Helen, whose previous works include short stories and plays.

A wealthy matriarch is killed—a heart attack after being assailed by apparently wild pit bulls. Her daughter believes it was murder, and she enlists the help of Shirley Combs, a financial portfolio manager who works as a detective on the side. Shirley, aided by Dr. Mary Watson, compiles a list of suspects: Those who stood to inherit her mother’s fortune, those affected by her plan to save the forests, a jealous lover, her strangely absent son. Or was it simply a tragic accident? “We’ll see,” says the gumshoe. Readers may be tempted to roll their eyes at the discernible correlation between the author’s novel and a certain famous detective’s (say Shirley’s full name really fast) case involving a similar canine-inspired murder. But mystery fans need not fret: These obvious allusions are trampled by the custom-designed Converse All Stars adorning the feet of a self-possessed and exemplary investigator. Mary, who—like the other Watson—provides narration and acts as a sounding board, describes Shirley as eccentric, but Shirley has a style all her own: She has a lab in her apartment, drives a Mercedes, and interviews people for both the gathering of clues and to gain prospective clients for her other job. One of the novel’s most striking traits is its portrayal of events from Mary’s perspective. If she wasn’t at the scene, she recounts events as told by Shirley. Mary’s secondhand accounts are more precise than her firsthand experiences—surmising that someone flinched and then changing her mind; literally jotting down “mmm” as a response, unsure if it was meant as yes or no. The grandest example of how Mary’s point of view affects the story is Shirley’s opening a line of questioning by asking the breed of a dog and then explaining that she was inquiring for Mary’s benefit; Mary, for her part, writes down the unfamiliar breed name phonetically and is so upset by Shirley’s sarcasm that she misses the entire conversation. The author provides the prerequisite features for classic mystery fans: a roster of suspects to keep readers guessing, assembling those suspects for the big reveal, allowing plenty of time for periodically reviewing the case, and of course, a magnifying glass.

A confident, meticulously detailed mystery that would have made Shirley’s pipe-smoking idol proud.

Pub Date: April 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475129212

Page Count: 208

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2012

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Darkly essential reading for every genre fan who’s ever considered sending a swab to a mail-order DNA testing service.


A first-rate case for Connelly’s third-string detective, bulldog journalist Jack McEvoy, who’s been biding his time since The Scarecrow (2009) as Harry Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer have hogged the spotlight.

The consumer-protection website FairWarning can’t hold a candle to the LA Times, where Jack once plied his trade. The real problem this time, though, is that the cops come to Jack rather than vice versa, as a person of interest who had a one-night stand a year ago with Christina Portrero, whose latest one-night stand broke her neck. In fact, Jack quickly discovers, Tina was only the most recent among a number of women who died of atlanto-occipital dislocation—several of them erroneously listed as accidents, all of them clients of the genetic testing firm GT23. Why would sending out your DNA for genetic information put you at enormously increased risk of falling victim to a brutal killer who calls himself the Shrike? The answer to the question of how “predators now can custom-order their victims,” which lies in the DRD4 gene, is guaranteed to make even the most hard-bitten readers queasy. Throughout his pursuit of the killer, the LAPD’s pursuit of him, and his unwilling partnerships with fellow journalist Emily Atwater and former FBI agent Rachel Walling, Jack works the case with a dogged professionalism, a mastery of detail, and a scarred but oversized heart that puts most of his police procedural cousins to shame.

Darkly essential reading for every genre fan who’s ever considered sending a swab to a mail-order DNA testing service.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-31653-942-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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