GHOST HERO

Now that she’s been rescued from her kidnappers (On the Line, 2010, etc.), Chinatown PI Lydia Chin deserves a bit of a holiday: a madcap search for some paintings that may or may not be authentic, and may or may not actually exist.

Jeff Dunbar is clear about what he wants: to locate the most recent paintings by Chau Chun, the Ghost Hero late of the Beijing Art Institute. But he’s not clear about anything else. He doesn’t give Lydia his real name. He doesn’t tell her why he needs to hire a private eye, and one with no expertise tracking down artworks, to find the paintings instead of waiting for them to come on the market. He can’t explain why Chau would have any new work available when he was killed in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago. He doesn’t warn Lydia that he’s not the only person looking for the paintings. So she and her partner Bill Smith are dumbfounded when Jack Lee, the specialist friend of Bill’s they consult, tells them that he’s working the same case too. Once Jack reveals the identity of his client—Bernard Yang, the NYU professor who held the Ghost Hero’s hand as he died—the game is afoot, and what a game it is, with no bloodletting and not much suspense but more cons and double-crosses than The Sting. Before the case is finally laid to rest, Bill will disguise himself as wealthy, mobbed-up art patron Vladimir Oblomov and Jack as art authenticator Dr. Lin Qiao-xiang to fool greedy gallery owner Doug Haig, with new revelations of other players’ deceptions arriving every ten minutes. Pleasantly foolish, insubstantial and harmless, though Bill’s extended turn as Oblomov is a little hard to take. Are the lowlife creeps who chase high art really that gullible?

 

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-54450-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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

THINGS IN JARS

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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