MacNeal (The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, 2014, etc.) paints an engrossing portrait of a country on the verge of war, with...

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MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE

In 1941, Christmas offers hope for a beleaguered Great Britain but no peace for an English spy.

Now that Japan has attacked the U.S., President Franklin Delano Roosevelt can declare war on the Axis, and Winston Churchill has made a secret trip to Washington to discuss strategy. After starting as Churchill’s secretary, brilliant math major Maggie Hope has graduated to become an accomplished spy. Raised in Boston by her American aunt after the supposed deaths of her parents, she now knows that her father is a codebreaker for Great Britain and her mother’s a Nazi spy imprisoned in England. Arriving at the White House, she’s sucked into helping Eleanor Roosevelt when they go check up on Mrs. Roosevelt’s missing secretary, Blanche Balfour, a Southern belle whose boyfriend is urging her to help him create a scandal. Maggie and Eleanor find Blanche dead in her bathtub, her wrists slit. The setup screams suicide, but Maggie is suspicious enough to remove a writing pad from Blanche’s room. Judicious use of a pencil shows that a letter written on the pad accused Eleanor of trying to kiss Blanche. Maggie also becomes involved in the cause of Wendell Cotton, a black man on death row in Virginia, whom an all-white jury has convicted of murder and sentenced to die. Mrs. Roosevelt is eager to save him, but her husband refuses to interfere because he needs Southern support for the war effort. While Churchill and Roosevelt huddle, Maggie’s former lover, Flight Lt. John Sterling, another of Churchill’s aides, is sent to California to drum up publicity and work with Walt Disney on a cartoon Sterling created. Maggie remains in D.C., assisted by a reporter who was once her old college friend, to wrestle with Blanche’s murder and Cotton’s fate.

MacNeal (The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, 2014, etc.) paints an engrossing portrait of a country on the verge of war, with many laws suspended and prejudice rife—a world not that much different from today.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8041-7870-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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

THINGS IN JARS

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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