Burroughs meets Hammett in this gritty, at times tragic, noir.

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DOPE

Gran’s third novel, as original and compelling as her first two (Saturn’s Return to New York, 2001, etc.), is of an ex-junkie grifter, now hired to find a missing college girl in 1950 Manhattan.

Josephine Flannigan is lucky to have made it to her 30s. Raised rough in Hell’s Kitchen, she never expected much from life. She has scraped by, pulling small cons, shoplifting, whoring when times were particularly bad—just about anything to get enough for her next fix. Clean for the past two years, Joe cashes in the occasional ring from Tiffany to pay for her furnished room and lunch at the automat. Now a $2,000 proposition comes along—a wealthy Westchester couple is looking for their daughter, a former Barnard student, now a junkie—and who better than Joe to search every shooting gallery and dance hall likely to house a pretty young girl. They give Joe a picture of their Nadine standing with a mystery man (who turns out to be Jerry McFall, a dealer and pimp), and Joe is on the case, an unlikely though effective gumshoe. Joe begins to gather leads, touring New York’s sleaziest spots, reconnecting with old friends, lifelong junkies and hustlers. She also bumps into her kid sister, Shelley, now a rising TV star. Shelley’s cleaned herself up and put the past behind her, including Joe, who admits she did a lousy job as surrogate mother, putting too much junk into her arm and not enough food on Shelley’s dinner plate. Her leads pay off, but no sooner does Joe find McFall than he’s murdered, and the cops haul Joe in as their #1 suspect, and for good reason. Joe’s been framed, the victim of a dangerous con (the Westchester couple were actors) to find McFall, and now Joe needs to uncover who set her up before the police book her for murder. A gripping mystery, but Gran’s real success is in recreating 1950s New York—the petty cons, the taxi dancers, the dank hotel rooms—a mosaic of everything sad and ugly about addiction.

Burroughs meets Hammett in this gritty, at times tragic, noir.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-15345-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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