The same old dirty-cop-in-a-dirtier-city tune is made to sound like something completely new.

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‘46, CHICAGO

From white-hot rising talent Monroe (’57 Chicago, 2001), a punishing cops and robbers tale that won’t win any prizes for subtlety, though there’s much to admire in its two-fisted directness.

In post–Capone Chicago gangsterland, crooked-as-a-rattlesnake policeman Gus Carson is having a hard time adjusting to Windy City life after a particularly grueling tour of duty in the Pacific Theater. Relieving some stress in a whorehouse, he inadvertently gets into the middle of a murder. The lawyer in the room next to Gus is gunned down, and Gus ends up having to take out the shooter in the stairwell. The brass aren’t too happy with his location at the time of the incident and so suspend him. Being as Gus isn’t just any old cop but an old-school operator who used to be best friends with the infamous South Side Sam—and is connected with everyone from Bronzeville numbers bosses to North Shore society types—his vacation isn’t very restful. Soon he’s working a private eye gig for the wealthy Arvis Hypoole, a Republican who’s thinking of a run at being the city’s first non-Democratic mayor in ages. Arvis sends the rock-fisted and dead-eyed Gus out to get to the bottom of who kidnapped Ed Jones—who’s big in the South Side numbers business—as a way of embarrassing his Democratic foes. Not that the politics matter much to Gus, who’s busy sucking down beers, grimly assessing his meager assets, eating the fists of goons set out to thwart him, reliving his hellish war experiences, and bedding high-society dames with a taste for rough trade. Monroe has taken the nightmarish post–Chandler crime operas of James Ellroy and distilled their rough-and-tumble style through the two-dimensional worldview of Mike Hammer, bringing everything down to the core essentials of graft, sex, violence, and realpolitick.

The same old dirty-cop-in-a-dirtier-city tune is made to sound like something completely new.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7868-6731-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2002

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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