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

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

BADLANDS

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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