Tight pacing and no-nonsense prose save an otherwise cookie-cutter thriller.

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ABSOLUTION

A cop hunts a serial killer in New Orleans.

In spite of his checkered past, Frank Renzi is a good cop. He’s hardworking, conscientious, dedicated, honorable–just the sort of person any city would want out on the streets hunting criminals. But this time Renzi may have met his match in “the sinner.” The serial killer is a Catholic priest, warped by a dark childhood of torture and humiliation at the hands of a cruel nanny, unable to resist a compulsion to inflict his inner pain on innocent women. The sinner commits a series of ritualistic murders he refers to as “absolutions,” which always end with the post-mortem removal of his victim’s tongue. But he covers his tracks thoroughly, leaving the police with few clues. That doesn’t stop Burke Norris, the overbearing and publicity-hungry FBI agent in charge of the investigation, from looking for an African-American suspect. The city’s seething divisions rise to the surface when reporter Rona Jefferson insists the search for a black suspect is racially motivated. For reasons of her own, she repeatedly and confrontationally uses her column to urge the police to look for a white priest, putting the Catholic community on edge. Into these treacherous waters steps Renzi, a dedicated cop with dark secrets in his past. Throw in a twisted serial killer who suffered psycho-sexual abuse as a child, opportunistic reporters and cops more interested in advancing their own agendas than getting to the truth for a clichéd plot line and stereotyped characters. Even the librarian in this book is a woman in her 60s who wears “granny glasses” and keeps her hair in a bun, straight out of central casting. But the book manages to hold its own even in this crowded genre, thanks to its relentless tempo and Fleet’s sharp writing.

Tight pacing and no-nonsense prose save an otherwise cookie-cutter thriller.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4357-0841-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2010

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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

A KILLER EDITION

Too much free time leads a New Hampshire bookseller into yet another case of murder.

Now that Tricia Miles has Pixie Poe and Mr. Everett practically running her bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, she finds herself at loose ends. Her wealthy sister, Angelica, who in the guise of Nigela Ricita has invested heavily in making Stoneham a bookish tourist attraction, is entering the amateur competition for the Great Booktown Bake-Off. So Tricia, who’s recently taken up baking as a hobby, decides to join her and spends a lot of time looking for the perfect cupcake recipe. A visit to another bookstore leaves Tricia witnessing a nasty argument between owner Joyce Widman and next-door neighbor Vera Olson over the trimming of tree branches that hang over Joyce’s yard—also overheard by new town police officer Cindy Pearson. After Tricia accepts Joyce’s offer of some produce from her garden, they find Vera skewered by a pitchfork, and when Police Chief Grant Baker arrives, Joyce is his obvious suspect. Ever since Tricia moved to Stoneham, the homicide rate has skyrocketed (Poisoned Pages, 2018, etc.), and her history with Baker is fraught. She’s also become suspicious about the activities at Pets-A-Plenty, the animal shelter where Vera was a dedicated volunteer. Tricia’s offered her expertise to the board, but president Toby Kingston has been less than welcoming. With nothing but baking on her calendar, Tricia has plenty of time to investigate both the murder and her vague suspicions about the shelter. Plenty of small-town friendships and rivalries emerge in her quest for the truth.

An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0272-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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