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One MacGuffin after another, with grisly sidelights now and then—exactly what fans have come to expect from hyperactive...

The ear looked just like Chip’s even if it wasn’t attached to his head anymore, said Gracellen, and it came attached to a note demanding $30,000 for the return of the rest of him alive.

Naturally Stella can’t refuse her sister’s request to rescue the boy. But when she tracks him down, he and his love, Natalya, a mail-order bride from Russia, are hacking away at her husband’s body and putting the pieces into several garbage bags for disposal in trash containers around town. No, they insist, they didn’t kill him, even if they did want him out of the way so they could marry. Somehow, Benton Parch just arrived dead on their porch, and they felt obligated to get rid of him. And no wonder, since the plastic surgeon trainee the tightwad had paid to do work on Natalya had botched the job royally: Just look at her. The lovers have no idea who might actually have killed him, but they think his former business partner may have had a grievance. Meanwhile, drug dealers are after Natalya’s son Luka for late payments, which they’ve been trying to cover with that ear package and request for money from Gracellen, who supposedly could have gotten funds from Chip’s wealthy grandfather, who even though he didn’t talk to him, probably would have come up with the cash, it being family and all. Complicating matters, a stowaway in Stella’s car looks enough like Luka to be mistaken for him, and Stella’s two suitors, Goat the sheriff and BJ of the mushy kisses, are drawn in to help her out, even though Stella has enough strong-arm skills of her own to subdue wife abusers, a task she’s taken seriously since disposing of her vile husband Ollie.

One MacGuffin after another, with grisly sidelights now and then—exactly what fans have come to expect from hyperactive Littlefield (A Bad Day for Scandal, 2011, etc.).

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-64838-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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