The prolific Shimada (The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, 2015 deserves to have more of his work translated into English. He creates a...

MURDER IN THE CROOKED HOUSE

A locked-room mystery in a uniquely built mansion is not so much a whodunit as a how-done-it…illustrated!

A list of dramatis personae, a detailed drawing of the Ice Floe Mansion, and a plummy prologue theatrically set the scene. The story is divided into four “Acts,” each of them in turn divided into “Scenes,” with the final act preceded by a challenge to the reader. The puzzle begins when oil executive Kozaburo Hamamoto invites a diverse group of eight guests to his mansion on a snowy night. He embarrasses his daughter, Eiko, by suggesting that one of the male guests might be her new husband. Once everyone has been locked into their rooms, a series of unusual events begins. In her room at the top, guest Kumi Aikura sees a threatening man appear, impossibly, at her window. It’s a snowy night, but no footprints show up anywhere around the house except when the party ventures out to see what they think is a corpse but turns out to be an antique doll Kozaburo purchased in Czechoslovakia. Whoever placed it there also decapitated it. The next morning, when guest Kazuya Ueda, the chauffeur of industrialist Eikichi Kikuoka, fails to appear for breakfast, his locked room is broken into and he’s found dead, bound to his bed frame. Enter a team of police, led by DCI Saburo Ushikoshi, who begins the methodical questioning of suspects and the (armchair) sleuthing.

The prolific Shimada (The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, 2015 deserves to have more of his work translated into English. He creates a delightfully intricate murder puzzle with retro charm, bound to tantalize readers.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78227-456-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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