BROKEN TRUST

Baker (Tainted Mountain, 2013, etc.) presents the second adventure of a Western accountant who tries to build a new life after her marriage ends tragically.

Nora Abbott is fighting off panic on Colorado’s Mount Evans when she meets Petal, a woman who looks like an elf in dreadlocks and ragbag clothes. Petal not only helps Nora down the mountain, but also tells her that she’d be a natural to succeed the recently vanished financial director for Loving Earth Trust in Boulder. Although Nora has an MBA and good qualifications, the murder of her husband a year ago has left her shaken, full of self-doubt and prone to visions of a kachina—a Hopi spirit. When the trust’s executive director, a former classmate of Nora’s, offers her the position on the spot, she can’t believe her luck. On the second day of the new job, she realizes why she was hired: She’s supposed to give false projections to the trust’s board. Instead, she reveals that Loving Earth is operating in the red due to the beetle-kill project of Sylvia LaFever, Loving Earth’s hotshot scientist. When Nora’s missing predecessor turns up dead on the trust’s grounds, Sylvia is the first suspect, even though she tries to put the blame on Nora. While Nora tries to make sense of Sylvia’s project and the role of a father-and-son team from Ecuador, she has to keep haunting memories, her overbearing mother, and a handsome, overprotective rancher at arm’s length. A Hopi friend is receiving warnings from a man who supposedly died 150 years ago. Will they come too late to save Nora? No wonder the hapless heroine is so overwhelmed that she makes decisions she knows are bad: Baker throws her into a vortex of corporate greed, Hopi mythology, speculative science, exaggerated characters, muddled flashbacks and one preposterous incident after another.

Overstuffed.

Pub Date: March 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7387-3425-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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