An entertaining, wine-soaked mystery.


In this novel, a winemaker attempts to stop a strange pest from destroying the world’s grapevines.

Corvina Guerra would love to settle down in one place to be a proper winemaker at a well-run vineyard. Instead, she works as a flying winemaker (a consultant) for Universal Wines, a massive distributor that collaborates with vineyards across the globe. While back in her native Italy helping out a struggling friend of her father’s, she discovers something troubling in the soil beneath his grapevines: “She could see small areas of dead tissue along the vine. The tiny bug attacked the vine by biting at the roots. Its saliva caused uncontrolled cell growth creating knots where bacteria could enter the plant, travel up and kill the rest of the vine.” The culprit is phylloxera, an American species of louse with the potential to destroy the entire wine crop of Europe. Universal Wines makes Corvina the point person on the phylloxera—or “Philomena,” as the media dub it—problem. With the help of Bryan Lawless, a handsome but opinionated master of wine, and Malcolm Goldberg, a curious reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, Corvina sets out to discover the reasons behind the sudden reappearance of the pest as well as the potential neurotoxin that could eradicate it. It turns out that the Philomena strand of phylloxera has been genetically engineered to be even deadlier to grapevines. But who would do such a thing? And how far are they willing to go to make sure the scheme stays covered up? Laine’s (Iconoclast, 2012, etc.) prose is sharp and exact. His characters’ dialogue captures the minutiae of wine culture while keeping the plot moving at a speedy clip: “The bartender with the eyebrow piercing is underpouring each glass of wine, stretching each bottle to six glasses instead of five,” the observant Lawless tells one baffled restaurateur. “I’ve been watching her three straight shifts.” The milieu is intriguing and the mystery is a lot of fun, even if its direction is a tad predictable. The author has crafted a medium-stakes tale perfect for an escapist read.

An entertaining, wine-soaked mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68442-260-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Turner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2018

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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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