A wholly engaging mystery-thriller with plenty of twists.

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DEATH CARDS

In Hudak’s debut novel, a New York City cop makes headway on a 24-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a teenage girl.

In 2001, Detective Paula Brocton is assigned an unsolved case—the presumed kidnapping of Lauren Shor in December 1977. Every year since her disappearance, her parents have received an anonymous greeting card taunting them. But this year, they didn’t. Although Paula initially doesn’t expect to spend very much time working on the case, she manages to uncover new evidence and arrests a suspect—but the following December, another card arrives. Her growing obsession with closing the case eventually leads to the exposure of deadly secrets. Hudak’s novel is a slow burn, however, as it opens with Detective Ralph DeSantis’ investigation of the initial crime scene in ’77 and follows the case through Ralph’s retirement and into the hands of other cops before it ever reaches Paula, the main protagonist. The narrative ably lures the reader in, imbued with the frustration and sorrow of a seemingly immobile investigation; it’s all the more exhilarating when Paula gets a break. Her determination is admirable, but her idiosyncrasies make her stand out, particularly the fact that she talks to herself—sometimes even yelling and raising eyebrows in her vicinity. Ralph is also a fine character but feels like a missed opportunity; some of his traits, such as an apparent desire to do stand-up comedy and his envy of a younger, more prominent detective, go nowhere. His plotline does, however, add to the novel’s overall feeling of despondency. There are so many turns in Paula’s investigation, including murder, an exhumed body and missing police reports, that even the most avid mystery fan may be surprised by one or more of them. The story also provides a good amount of suspense, as in a tense scene in which Paula thinks that someone has broken into her apartment.

A wholly engaging mystery-thriller with plenty of twists.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490586830

Page Count: 426

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

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If you're new to Penny's world, this would be a great place to jump in. Then go back and start the series from the beginning.

ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE

Gamache goes to Paris.

Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec has had an eventful time in Penny's last few books, taking over as Chief Superintendent, uncovering corruption at the highest levels, facing public scorn, and finally ending up back where he started, as head of the homicide division. Penny has always been a master of pacing on a serieswide level, moving between the overarching corruption story and more local mysteries and also occasionally taking a break from Three Pines, the beloved, unmappable Quebec village that is the main setting. This time around, Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, a retired librarian, are spending time in Paris, where both of their children now live, waiting for their daughter, Annie, to give birth to her first child with husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second-in-command. Gamache takes the opportunity to visit the Rodin Museum with his godfather, billionaire Stephen Horowitz, who then joins the extended Gamache clan for dinner—only to be hit by a car and almost killed as they leave the restaurant. Gamache is convinced it was no accident—an impression reinforced the next morning when he and Reine-Marie go to Stephen's apartment and find the place has been ransacked and there's a dead body behind the sofa. Soon the whole family is involved in the investigation, and everyone has a part to play, from Reine-Marie, who visits the Archives nationales, to son Daniel, a venture capitalist who moved to Paris to escape his father's shadow. Gamache calls on an old friend, the head of the Paris police force, but can he be trusted? As always, Penny's mystery is meticulously constructed and reveals hard truths about the hidden workings of the world—as well as the workings of the Gamache family. But there's plenty of local color, too, with a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower to escape surveillance and a luxurious suite at the Hotel George V for good measure.

If you're new to Penny's world, this would be a great place to jump in. Then go back and start the series from the beginning.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-25-014523-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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