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POSTER GIRL

A JANE BENJAMIN NOVEL

An intriguing, tense, and entertaining read, with a sturdy female protagonist.

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When a young female welder dies in a shipyard accident, a reporter suspects foul play in Blanton-Stroud’s mystery novel.

On Saturday, November 7, 1942, the Lowe Shipyard in Richmond, California is buzzing with excitement. Owner Adam Lowe is about to announce a contest, a challenge for his workers to build the next Liberty Ship in less than one week, beating the 10-day record recently set by the Lowe Portland shipyard up north. Plus, Adam has just hired, for the first time, women welders for the Richmond yard. This second part of the announcement is met with decidedly less enthusiasm. Jane Benjamin, gossip columnist for the local San Francisco Prospect, is there to cover the event. As the ceremony draws to a close, whistles and a horn sound from Yard Two of the complex. Jane follows her instincts and runs toward the whistle. There she sees the lifeless body of a young woman, Jeannie Lyons, her hand curled around a welding wand (“She lay at the base of a U-shaped concrete deck, facing the watery bays where five partly built ships lined up, the middle bay empty, like a missing tooth”). The death is declared to be work-related, resulting from carelessness and inexperience. Ambitious and intrepid, Jane has an idea to patriotically promote the replacement of soon-to-be-drafted male workers with women who can contribute to the war effort. The shipyard will run a contest to select a poster girl—Wendy the Welder—and Jane will have a career-boosting story. This third volume in the Jane Benjamin series gradually builds its way into an action-packed thriller as Jane races to uncover the nefarious doings at the shipyard before she becomes one of the victims. Intermingled with the sinister plotline are the politics, prejudices, and societal restrictions of the period, issues that lamentably still have currency. Appearances by notorious columnist Hedda Hopper add a realistic touch to the media frenzy, as well as some satisfying levity. Lively prose, enjoyably edgy dialogue, and a delightful, unconventional, feminist heroine add up to a captivating page-turner.

An intriguing, tense, and entertaining read, with a sturdy female protagonist.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9781647425937

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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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

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THE BURNING

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

When two police officers stop for a bit of dalliance, screams from the nearby woods introduce them to a puzzling and horrifying murder.

Chuck Skidmore and Mona Kurtz don’t arrive in time to rescue a man who’s being burned at the stake, a sight that will haunt their dreams. Police Chief Kate Burkholder arrives on the scene with her husband, John Tomasetti, an agent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who’ll join her and many other cops in a task force investigating the bizarre murder. Born Amish, Kate ran away from Painters Mill, found her vocation in law enforcement, and eventually came home as the police department’s chief. Over the years, she’s built up some trust with the local Amish community, who generally prefer to keep their problems to themselves. The victim is Milan Swanz, a troubled former schoolmate of Kate’s whom she’s arrested several times. A divorced man with four children, he’d been recently excommunicated by the Amish. Although Milan was far from popular, Kate meets a wall of silence from even her own brother, one of many people who had disputes with the hot-tempered man. Kate’s theory of the crime, based on stories in a book popular with the Amish, is so bizarre that she has trouble believing it herself. When her brother is arrested, she’s removed from the task force but continues to investigate, putting her in the sights of some very determined killers.

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250781116

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2024

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