Politics can be cruel and heartbreaking—and even more complicated than it seems.

THE COYOTES OF CARTHAGE

This dark comedy about dark money confirms one’s worst suspicions about the political process while constantly confounding one’s presumptions about human behavior.

Once an up-and-coming operative for a prestigious K Street political consulting firm, Andre “Dre” Ross now finds himself on thin ice for having gone overboard on a gubernatorial campaign. His boss offers him what seems to be one last chance for advancement: the opportunity to supervise a ballot initiative that would enable a metals conglomerate to mine gold from a thousand-acre Appalachian rainforest in Carthage County, South Carolina, that local officials refuse to sell. Making the county’s predominantly white and mostly conservative electorate willing to part with such fertile land shouldn’t require much more than ramping up anti-government, don’t-tread-on-me emotions. But because Dre is African American and has a criminal record in his youthful past, he may be the least likely public face to put before presumptive voters. So he assembles a team co-led by a strapping 20-something Irish American assistant named Brendan and a lead spokesman named Tyler Lee, who owns a bar called the Gray Wolf and flies both the American and Confederate flags. An even bigger asset to the campaign turns out to be Tyler’s pregnant, God-fearing wife, Chalene, whose fragile, self-effacing demeanor belies her natural magnetism as a public speaker. Pulling strings on this movement takes an emotional toll on Dre, who is capable of orchestrating all manner of dirty tricks to fulfill his client’s mandate. Yet he is pummeled by so much self-loathing that he alienates everybody on his team with the possible exception of Chalene, the least cynical person in the novel. “Aren’t elections about getting people to like you?” she asks Dre at one point. “That’s a common misconception,” he replies. “Elections are about getting voters to hate others.” That this debut novel is written by an attorney whose specialties include criminal justice and election law adds doleful, acerbic authenticity to his scenario. Yet there is also alertness to the possibility of redemption and change even in the most polarizing of situations.

Politics can be cruel and heartbreaking—and even more complicated than it seems.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295166-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

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

BADLANDS

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 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more