A serviceable thriller, but one that’s a bit too straightforward to deliver many thrills.


City of Ghosts


An American in Austria becomes embroiled in an international crime plot in Kobb’s debut novel.

The story opens in a Vienna cafe, where Jake Meyer, an American college kid studying abroad, notices the beautiful but withdrawn college student Anna and her conspicuously bandaged wrists. He has a brief conversation with her, and later spies her again, having an awkward encounter with an older professor; still later, he witnesses her ex-boyfriend fall to his death, and Anna peeking out of the professor’s office window above. After speaking with Anna, however, he believes in her innocence, and begins investigating the mystery. Jake seems like a typical earnest American who wants to play the hero, but a secret in his past, involving the death of his sister, provides him with a motivation to help Anna and gives his character depth. His friends and roommates add a mix of distinct personalities, even if the many coincidental connections among them become difficult to believe. Meanwhile, Tess McIntosh, an American consular official, provides a refreshing change in point of view and allows fascinating glimpses into what it’s like to work for an embassy in a foreign country. Tess first meets Jake when his mother, in a classic helicopter-parent move, asks embassy officials to check up on him as he hadn’t called home in a while; of course, the attraction between Tess and Jake is immediate after they meet in person. The two soon become entangled in a plot involving explosions, murder, and war criminals. Vienna is an exotic setting for a thriller, and Kobb uses its distinct culture and beautiful locales to good effect. The plot, however, dutifully moves forward from point A to B to C; some twists and turns would have been welcome, as well as a more complex mystery for Jake and Tess to unravel. Tess remarks to herself more than once that Jake’s and her adventure “wasn’t a movie,” but the cartoonish villains, when they make appearances, seem like they stepped directly out of an action flick. Kobb’s pared-down, often funny writing pulls readers along, though, to a satisfying, if predictable, ending.

A serviceable thriller, but one that’s a bit too straightforward to deliver many thrills.

Pub Date: July 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5148-0353-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2015

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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