A crisp, fleet timekiller: the fashionplate lawyer’s best outing since Dead in the Water (1997).

DIRTY WORK

A routine stint of bedroom peeping sets jet-set New York lawyer Stone Barrington against an international assassin with more disguises than a barrel of cross-dressing monkeys.

A clause Stone inserted into Lawrence Fortescue’s prenuptial agreement with Elena Marks will cost him any claim on her assets or income if he’s caught in flagrante, so when Elena gets wind of her bridegroom’s latest assignation, she wants film at 11. Because Stone doesn’t do such distasteful jobs himself, he hires photographer Herbie Fisher to get the evidence, then has to take care of Herbie when he phones from the local precinct after the skylight he was leaning on collapses, sending him hurtling down atop Larry’s dead body. The real story here, however, isn’t Herbie or even Larry, but Larry’s companion, who fatally poisoned him (why?) just before Herbie dropped in and then took a powder herself. As Felicity Devonshire, the British agent Stone got to know as Carpenter in The Short Forever (2002), points out the morning after her bedroom exercise with Stone, the subject of Herbie’s art hasn’t been photographed since she was 12—eight years before British Intelligence killed her parents in a botched operation and she swore revenge. Now Marie-Thérèse du Bois (to give her the real name she uses only in the coffee breaks between chameleon changes of identity) has already murdered three of Carpenter’s colleagues, and, as subsequent events demonstrate, she’s only warming up. As in The Short Forever, but much more successfully, Woods keeps changing gears from one plotline to the next—Get the Pictures, Find the Woman, Broker the Meeting, Contain the Damage—so that, although no breath of reality ever disturbs the air of deluxe action, the tale puts both Stone and the reader through some exhilarating paces.

A crisp, fleet timekiller: the fashionplate lawyer’s best outing since Dead in the Water (1997).

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-14982-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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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No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

FLESH AND BLOOD

Happy birthday, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. But no Florida vacation for you and your husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley—not because President Barack Obama is visiting Cambridge, but because a deranged sniper has come to town.

Shortly after everyone’s favorite forensic pathologist (Dust, 2013, etc.) receives a sinister email from a correspondent dubbed Copperhead, she goes outside to find seven pennies—all polished, all turned heads-up, all dated 1981—on her garden wall. Clearly there’s trouble afoot, though she’s not sure what form it will take until five minutes later, when a call from her old friend and former employee Pete Marino, now a detective with the Cambridge Police, summons her to the scene of a shooting. Jamal Nari was a high school music teacher who became a minor celebrity when his name was mistakenly placed on a terrorist watch list; he claimed government persecution, and he ended up having a beer with the president. Now he’s in the news for quite a different reason. Bizarrely, the first tweets announcing his death seem to have preceded it by 45 minutes. And Leo Gantz, a student at Nari’s school, has confessed to his murder, even though he couldn’t possibly have done it. But these complications are only the prelude to a banquet of homicide past and present, as Scarpetta and Marino realize when they link Nari’s murder to a series of killings in New Jersey. For a while, the peripheral presence of the president makes you wonder if this will be the case that finally takes the primary focus off the investigator’s private life. But most of the characters are members of Scarpetta’s entourage, the main conflicts involve infighting among the regulars, and the killer turns out to be a familiar nemesis Scarpetta thought she’d left for dead several installments back. As if.

No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232534-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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