There's a minor road-trip thread, and a mystery too, but this is primarily a psychological drama driven by a lonely struggle...

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THE RIGHT SIDE

Quinn (Arf, 2016, etc.) is known for caninecentric comic mysteries, but here the dog takes a supporting role as Afghanistan veteran LeAnne Hogan, marred by a disfiguring injury and PTSD, finds purpose after a close friend’s death.

A talented high school athlete, LeAnne rejects West Point after her father’s suicide. Instead, she enlists as an Army private and then serves multiple Iraq and Afghanistan tours. As co-leader of a Cultural Support Team (a unit of combat-capable female soldiers who accompany Special Ops forces to gather intelligence), LeAnne lost her right eye, leaving her with a terribly scarred face and severe PTSD. Well-written flashbacks chronicle the CST soldiers in-country and introduce an Afghan interpreter nicknamed Katie, whom LeAnne considers a kindred soul and who ends up changing her life. In the novel's present day, LeAnne is a wounded warrior in a U.S. military hospital, where she's become an intense, isolated woman prone to bouts of anger and despair. Her character changes markedly as she tries to understand her hero father’s apparent suicide and resolves to mend her contentious relationship with her mother. Then LeAnne’s stumbling recovery goes off-rail after her hospital roommate, Marci, dies suddenly. LeAnne impulsively leaves the hospital, a defiant escape that's perfectly detailed by Quinn. In a journey ripe with symbolism, LeAnne travels west, then follows a compulsion to head to Washington and connect with Marci’s daughter. Soon after she encounters a huge black dog at a dramatic moment, she learns that the child is mysteriously missing. Quinn realistically depicts the way civilians fail to comprehend a warrior’s mindset. The despondency of PTSD portrayed with such brutal intensity—LeAnne’s guarded, prickly, and cynical persona cracks but never fully opens—makes for emotionally difficult reading.

There's a minor road-trip thread, and a mystery too, but this is primarily a psychological drama driven by a lonely struggle to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pub Date: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1840-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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