Young has done it again with his unique blend of lighthearted mystery and quick-witted characters.

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FLEETING NOTE

What begins as an evening out for semiretired private investigator Enescu Fleet at the Pendleton Institute of Music ends on a sour note when the body of a music critic crashes the party in Young’s (Fleeting Glance, 2012, etc.) third comic mystery in the series.

Once again, the lovably lost John Hathaway narrates Fleet’s misadventures. He begins the story perplexed: “I couldn’t figure why an elite music college would want to toast a private eye, no matter how famous and semiretired he may be.” It’s only after John’s fiancee, Lesley; Fleet’s daughter, Ate; and their friend Hutton (another PI both less famous and less retired than Fleet) are seated that Fleet reveals that the banquet is honoring his esteemed Romanian ancestor, the composer George Enescu. The unflappable detective accepted the invitation despite one detail that the rather more flappable Hathaway fixates on: “Fleet wasn’t related to the composer Enescu. He wasn’t even Romanian.” Suitably trapped, the crew settles in to enjoy themselves anyway, until an obnoxious old schoolmate of Hathaway and Hutton drops in on them—literally. Chester Callas, having earlier in the evening pooh-poohed the credibility of Fleet’s previous cases in which the victims clung to life long enough to leave cryptic clues, can’t stop chuckling as he pulls himself from the table he landed on and grips Hathaway’s lapels long enough to whisper his own enigmatic clue as a final coda. Once more, it’s a marvelously clever setup, and in spite of being somewhat shorter than the previous books, it still packs a plot replete with murder, mistaken identity, blackmail, intrigue, missing masterpieces and a Maltese named Pixie. Young’s dry wit and love of language shine throughout poor Hathaway’s recollection of events, and the humor is finely tuned in a way that few authors can manage. But for all of that, the murder itself is relegated to the background by all the other events; when the truth is ultimately unveiled, it’s a letdown just shy of the one Chester got from the fifth-floor balcony. In his defense, even Hathaway expresses disappointment at the ending, but one off note is far from enough to keep a comedy of this caliber off the stage.

Young has done it again with his unique blend of lighthearted mystery and quick-witted characters.

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490444109

Page Count: 216

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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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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The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom...

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LADY IN THE LAKE

Baltimore in the 1960s is the setting for this historical fiction about a real-life unsolved drowning.

In her most ambitious work to date, Lippman (Sunburn, 2018, etc.) tells the story of Maddie Schwartz, an attractive 37-year-old Jewish housewife who abruptly leaves her husband and son to pursue a long-held ambition to be a journalist, and Cleo Sherwood, an African-American cocktail waitress about whom little is known. Sherwood's body was found in a lake in a city park months after she disappeared, and while no one else seems to care enough to investigate, Maddie becomes obsessed—partly due to certain similarities she perceives between her life and Cleo's, partly due to her faith in her own detective skills. The story unfolds from Maddie's point of view as well as that of Cleo's ghost, who seems to be watching from behind the scenes, commenting acerbically on Maddie's nosing around like a bull in a china shop after getting a job at one of the city papers. Added to these are a chorus of Baltimore characters who make vivid one-time appearances: a jewelry store clerk, an about-to-be-murdered schoolgirl, "Mr. Helpline," a bartender, a political operative, a waitress, a Baltimore Oriole, the first African-American female policewoman (these last two are based on real people), and many more. Maddie's ambition propels her forward despite the cost to others, including the family of the deceased and her own secret lover, a black policeman. Lippman's high-def depiction of 1960s Baltimore and the atmosphere of the newsroom at that time—she interviewed associates of her father, Baltimore Sun journalist Theo Lippman Jr., for the details—ground the book in fascinating historical fact.The literary gambit she balances atop that foundation—the collage of voices—works impressively, showcasing the author's gift for rhythms of speech. The story is bigger than the crime, and the crime is bigger than its solution, making Lippman's skill as a mystery novelist work as icing on the cake.

The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom and the city it covers.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-239001-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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