Orchard (A Fool and His Monet, 2016, etc.) creates a likable, enviable heroine who knows art inside out but seems a tad...

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DALI

An art expert takes on a case of theft, forgery, and loopy family dynamics.

Oh, to be Serena Jones! Not only does she have long, wavy blonde locks, a job as a member of the FBI’s Art Crime Team in St. Louis, and the admiration of her dishy trainer/partner, Tanner Calhoun, and her hunky apartment super, Nate Butler; she also has eccentric great-aunt Martha, who serves up a mean dish of frog’s legs. On the down side, Serena is a terrible painter haunted by her vegetable still lifes, and her mother is poised to send out wedding invitations if Serena so much as breathes on anyone with a Y chromosome. And her redoubtable grandmother Nana wants Serena to recover a Dalí painting stolen from Nana’s friend Gladys Hoffemeier. It has to be done very discreetly: Gladys is worried that her daughter and her cop son are trying to chivvy her out of a huge, expensive house and will use the stolen painting as further evidence that Gladys can’t manage her estate. Serena soon discovers that she’s let herself in for a muddle of a case with an ever growing list of suspects—Gladys’ improvident son-in-law, a Russian mobster, an ersatz exterminator, a well-known local artist who inconveniently turns up dead. Acting on overheard conversations, warnings from Tanner that Nate and his brother may be shady, and her own wits to escape attempts on her life, Serena copes with even more than being prom queen at a fundraiser and choosing between Tanner’s brown eyes and Nate’s blue. When it’s not just her own life at stake, but Aunt Martha’s and a young protégé’s, Serena does what any self-respecting, government-trained agent does—goes rogue.

Orchard (A Fool and His Monet, 2016, etc.) creates a likable, enviable heroine who knows art inside out but seems a tad short on common sense.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8007-2669-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Revell

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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