Blood and thunder along with scantily clad female victims, monsters of every stripe, and more blood.

THE BEST OF JULES DE GRANDIN

Don’t have time to wade through all five volumes collecting the stories of pulpmeister Quinn (1889-1969) published in Weird Tales between 1925 and 1951? Editor George Vanderburgh has obligingly selected 20 standouts.

“Standout” doesn’t mean “best.” Self-described “physician and occultist” Dr. Jules de Grandin is roused from his rarely glimpsed domestic sphere in Harrisonville, New Jersey, by an unending parade of cases that end up involving ghouls, vampires, werewolves, mummies, familiars, reincarnated figures from past history, and the undead. So every one of these stories is very much like all the others. Even many of their titles—“The House of Horror,” “Restless Souls,” “Stealthy Death,” “The Mansion of Unholy Magic,” “Witch-House,” “Suicide Chapel”—are interchangeable. Yet they all stand out from the everyday world in the starkest terms possible. Grandin and his stodgier sidekick, Dr. Samuel Trowbridge, confront bridegrooms who drop dead at the altar, horribly vengeful surgeons, sinister kittens, fathers eager to sacrifice their children in the name of science, and plot twists that echo “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” The Moonstone and “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” (and, to be fair, others that anticipate “The Most Dangerous Game” and Jamaica Inn). National and ethnic stereotypes take the place of characterization, and both the malefactors and their victims are largely indistinguishable from others in their class. Quinn’s zeal is reserved for pulpy plotting. He launches each tale with a juicy hook, breaks as many taboos (from dismemberment to incest) as possible, and keeps the pot boiling en route to the inevitably anticlimactic explanations, face-offs, and post-combat libations.

Blood and thunder along with scantily clad female victims, monsters of every stripe, and more blood.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949102-26-0

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Night Shade

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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