A half-baked franchise debut most likely to appeal to paranormal-mystery buffs.

GHOST À LA MODE

The creator of plus-sized paralegal Odelia Grey (Booby Trap, 2008, etc.) launches a new series featuring a California clairvoyant.

Emma Whitecastle sees dead people. Her first ghost is her recently deceased Aunt Kitty, who shows up while Emma’s still recovering from seeing her self-involved ex Grant, soon-to-be trophy wife and adorable new baby in tow, at her daughter Kelly’s graduation party. But Kitty’s just an appetizer. The main course is Emma’s several-times-great-grandmother Ish Reynolds, who really should be dessert, since she was known in her day as Granny Apples for her fabulous pies. Despite her oldster nickname, Ish died in her early 40s when she was lynched for the murder of her husband Jacob. Now the feisty phantom wants Emma to clear the family name by finding out who really killed Jacob. Since Emma has been camping at her parents’ house while she waits for Grant to offer a settlement she can live with, she’s only too willing to drive out to the Reynolds’ former homestead in Julian, now a quaint tourist destination east of San Diego. In popular room ten of the Julian Hotel, she meets resident ghost Albert Robinson, who gives her a quick tutorial in local history, and Billy Winslow, whose spirit doesn’t want to leave his burial site. But it’s the live folks, especially charming, irascible Phil Bowers, current owner of the old Reynolds property, who provide the greatest challenge and the most promise.

A half-baked franchise debut most likely to appeal to paranormal-mystery buffs.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7387-1380-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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