Despite the names and dates, this authorized sequel will remind you less of Christie, whose strengths are very different...

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THE MONOGRAM MURDERS

Hercule Poirot, last spotted in Charles Osborne’s novelization Black Coffee (1998), returns from retirement to investigate a triple poisoning in 1929 London.

It doesn’t take long for Poirot to realize why the woman he encounters in Pleasant’s Coffee House is all in a dither. She’s afraid that she’s about to be killed, and she can’t bring herself to run from her killer, since death is no more than she deserves. She flees before he can pin her down to specifics, but he soon links her to three deaths at the nearby Bloxham Hotel. Each of the guests—retired lawyer Richard Negus, his former fiancee, Ida Gransbury, and their old friend Harriet Sippel—arrived separately the day before; each was poisoned with cyanide, then neatly laid out on the floor; and each is found with a monogrammed cufflink in his or her mouth shortly after someone turns in a note to the Bloxham’s front desk with their three room numbers and the epitaph, “MAY THEY NEVER REST IN PEACE.” Clearly this triple homicide has roots too deep for Poirot’s temporary housemate, Detective Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard, to fathom. So Poirot attaches himself to the case, uncovering evidence about the victims’ shared past in a village scandal 16 years ago, alternately lecturing and hectoring Catchpool, and sounding very little like Agatha Christie’s legendary sleuth except for the obligatory French tags. Hannah, a specialist in psychological suspense (The Orphan Choir, 2014, etc.), would seem an odd choice for the job of resurrecting Poirot. The main strengths she brings to her task are a formidable ingenuity and a boundless appetite for reviewing the same evidence over and over again. The herrings-within-herrings denouement, which goes on for 100 pages, hovers between tour de force and unintentional farce.

Despite the names and dates, this authorized sequel will remind you less of Christie, whose strengths are very different from Hannah’s, than of the dozens of other pastiches of golden age detective fiction among which it takes its place.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-229721-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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