Instead of presenting these three narrative layers in chronological order, Von Doviak cuts constantly from one to the other...


Wondering who pulled off the never-solved 1990 heist at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which netted the thieves the richest haul still unrecovered in the history of art theft? Von Doviak’s waggish debut has the answer to this question—and much, much more.

In 1946, according to Von Doviak, two fake cops who gained admittance to the museum late one night along with their confederates make off with a collection of 13 artworks by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and more, worth an estimated $500 million. Despite intensive investigation and a well-publicized, high-figure reward, the case remains unsolved in 1986, when Tommy Donnelly, a student living in Emerson College’s Charlesgate student residence, a former hotel with a colorful history, sets out to write Charlesgate Confidential, a history of the place, and swiftly finds links between the Charlesgate, which in its day hosted everything from Jimmy Dryden’s stable of prostitutes (sixth floor) to Dave T’s high-stakes poker game (eighth floor) and the storied robbery. The most intriguing link: Days before the robbery, three gunmen swooped down on Dave T’s, made off with the proceeds, and returned shortly after the robbery to execute Fat Dave, the Red Room Lounge bartender who identified them to their victim, whom he calls "Other Dave," leading to the conscription of one of the gunmen as a fake cop in the museum robbery and his violent death. In 2014—are you still following this?—a reunion of Tommy Donnelly’s Emerson class spearheaded by classmate Jackie St. John digs even deeper into the past, which has now gotten pretty doggone deep.

Instead of presenting these three narrative layers in chronological order, Von Doviak cuts constantly from one to the other in a wildly inventive fantasia spiced with frequent revelations of new crimes and new solutions. The only downside: The last round of revelations doesn’t carry any more weight than the others.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78565-717-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.


Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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