Lawyer/cop/shamus/adventurer Stone Barrington chronicler Woods gives his swaggering hero and any Stone-weary readers a welcome break—though the result is a so-so suspenser with a distaff paragon just as deadly and insubstantial as the male. What can you do with a female hero that you can’t do with a man? She can get threatened and bullied by troglodyte guys; she can have a discreet romance that reminds you how vulnerable she is; she can get assaulted by a rapist; she can sue for sexual harassment. Woods obligingly works in every one of these episodes, starting with the lawsuit, which is doomed to failure because Major Holly Barker’s harasser, a West Point grad, is in so tight with the Army brass that she jumps at the chance to resign her commission and take a job as Deputy Chief under her dad’s old pal Chet Marley, of Florida’s Orchid Beach. Before she can even introduce herself to the other (male) officers, though, the Chief is gunned down, presumably by the same person or persons who grabbed his shotgun, drove out to the house of his best friend, dog trainer Hank Doherty, and settled his hash too. The only survivor is Hank’s wonder dog Daisy (imagine Lassie able to fetch Timmy a Heineken), a real bitch Holly is proud to take as a role model. And she’ll need the toughest model she can get, because Woods, uncomfortable with the constraints of the whodunit formula, soon directs Holly’s attention to outsized enemies both without (a gated community on the fringes of Orchid Beach that’s exclusive, private, and armed to the teeth) and within (dark hints of a mole within Holly’s department). Before many suns have set on Holly and her true love, and all those other girls’-only plot devices have kicked in, she’ll be joining the FBI in a full-scale assault on an upscale Waco that leaves no Stone untopped. Middling for Woods’s checkered output: not as glamorously nasty as L.A. Times (1993) or as fleet as Dead in the Water (1997), but not as dopey as this year’s Swimming to Catalina either (p. 439).

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-019181-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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


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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