THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR

It’s difficult to drum up sympathy for this missing child, swaddled as she is in such a dull and harmless plot.

A questionable decision leaves a couple in a situation no parent wants to face: it’s the middle of the night and their baby is gone.

Anne and Marco Conti seem like the perfect upstate New York family. He runs a successful software development company while she stays home with 6-month-old Cora; maybe soon she’ll go back to work at the art gallery she loved. Yet looks are deceiving: his company is floundering, and she’s struggling with postpartum depression. A nice night out at a neighbor’s birthday party might be just the thing everyone needs. But when the babysitter cancels, Anne and Marco decide to leave Cora alone, taking the baby monitor with them and checking on her every half hour. This ends predictably badly. When they return, drunk, after 1:00 a.m., Cora is gone. What ensues is a paint-by-numbers police investigation, led by the personality-free Detective Rasbach, who seems to cycle through potential theories as to Cora’s whereabouts the same way Lapena must have in her early plotting stages, except it all ended up on the page. When it’s clear, or at least partially clear, what happened to the child, any remaining tension hisses out like a pricked balloon. Anne’s wealthy mother and stepfather seem a too-obvious plot device, and they are, while her issues with the very real problem of postpartum depression are merely glossed over or trotted out during faux-fiery monologues.

It’s difficult to drum up sympathy for this missing child, swaddled as she is in such a dull and harmless plot.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2108-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

KILLING FLOOR

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 1

Welcome to Margrave, Georgia—but don't get too attached to the townsfolk, who are either in on a giant conspiracy, or hurtling toward violent deaths, or both. There's not much of a welcome for Jack Reacher, a casualty of the Army's peace dividend, who's drifted into town idly looking for traces of a long-dead black jazzman. Not only do the local cops arrest him for murder, but the chief of police turns eyewitness to place him on the scene, even though Reacher was getting on a bus in Tampa at the time. Two surprises follow: The murdered man wasn't the only victim, and he was Reacher's brother Joe, whom he hadn't seen in seven years. So Reacher, who so far hasn't had anything personally against the crooks who set him up for a weekend in the state pen at Warburton, clicks into overdrive. Banking on the help of the only two people in Margrave he can trust—a Harvard-educated chief of detectives who hasn't been on the job long enough to be on the take, and a smart, scrappy officer who's taken him to her bed—he sets out methodically in his brother's footsteps, trying to figure out why his cellmate in Warburton, a panicky banker whose cell-phone number turned up in Joe's shoe, confessed to a murder he obviously didn't commit; trying to figure out why all the out-of- towners on Joe's list of recent contacts were as dead as he was; and trying to stop the local carnage, or at least direct it in more positive ways. Though the testosterone flows as freely as printer's ink, Reacher is an unobtrusively sharp detective in his quieter moments—not that there are many of them to judge by. Despite the crude, tough-naif narration, debut novelist Child serves up a big, rangy plot, menace as palpable as a ticking bomb, and enough battered corpses to make an undertaker grin.

Pub Date: March 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-399-14253-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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