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DEAD SOON ENOUGH

Once more, Cha often sacrifices suspense and plot twists for a more philosophical approach to mystery, though she clearly...

Tracking the surrogate mother for a high-maintenance client leads a bright young shamus to delve into Armenian cultural history and the meaning of closure.

No longer a rookie private investigator (Beware, Beware, 2014, etc.), Juniper Song has graduated from digging through the trash of suspected liars and cheaters to actual detective work. Her latest client, Dr. Rubina Gasparian, has some control issues about what exactly she wants investigated. Song is game for the job, though she has suspicions about her assigned task: to follow Rubina’s very pregnant cousin Lusig, who's acting as a surrogate for the infertile Rubina. Rubina has been doing some amateur detective work herself and has already taken the liberty of applying a GPS device to Lusig’s car. Song learns that one of the reasons Lusig has evaded Rubina’s watchful eye is that she’s engaged in some detective work of her own: Lusig’s closest friend, Nora, has been missing for about a month, and Lusig is tenaciously tracking down untapped leads. It seems that Nora’s confrontational blog, Who Still Talks, a forum on the 1915 Armenian genocide and its deniers, may have brought the historical debate from online chatter to something up close and personal. In order to protect what’s most important to her, the child Lusig is carrying, Rubina hires Song to find Nora so Lusig can stay home and let nature take its course. Apart from milking Veronica Sanchez, her LAPD connection, it appears the best thing Song can do is learn about the genocide, the deniers, and Who Still Talks. Her search leads Song down a rabbit hole of complex relations, perhaps involving hazy government connections, though the truth of what happened to Nora may be much closer to home.

Once more, Cha often sacrifices suspense and plot twists for a more philosophical approach to mystery, though she clearly knows where she wants to go.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06531-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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THE WINNER

Irritatingly trite woman-in-periler from lawyer-turned-novelist Baldacci. Moving away from the White House and the white-shoe Washington law firms of his previous bestsellers (Absolute Power, 1996; Total Control, 1997), Baldacci comes up with LuAnn Tyler, a spunky, impossibly beautiful, white-trash truck stop waitress with a no-good husband and a terminally cute infant daughter in tow. Some months after the birth of Lisa, LuAnn gets a phone call summoning her to a make-shift office in an unrented storefront of the local shopping mall. There, she gets a Faustian offer from a Mr. Jackson, a monomaniacal, cross-dressing manipulator who apparently knows the winning numbers in the national lottery before the numbers are drawn. It seems that LuAnn fits the media profile of what a lottery winner should be—poor, undereducated but proud—and if she's willing to buy the right ticket at the right time and transfer most of her winnings to Jackson, she'll be able to retire in luxury. Jackson fails to inform her, however, that if she refuses his offer, he'll have her killed. Before that can happen, as luck would have it, LuAnn barely escapes death when one of husband Duane's drug deals goes bad. She hops on a first-class Amtrak sleeper to Manhattan with a hired executioner in pursuit. But executioner Charlie, one of Jackson's paid handlers, can't help but hear wedding bells when he sees LuAnn cooing with her daughter. Alas, a winning $100- million lottery drawing complicates things. Jackson spirits LuAnn and Lisa away to Sweden, with Charlie in pursuit. Never fear. Not only will LuAnn escape a series of increasingly violent predicaments, but she'll also outwit Jackson, pay an enormous tax bill to the IRS, and have enough left over to honeymoon in Switzerland. Too preposterous to work as feminine wish-fulfillment, too formulaic to be suspenseful. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52259-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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