The mystery is barely there, but Isaacs’ fans will enjoy another sharp-tongued romp through the New York privileged classes...

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AS HUSBANDS GO

What was Susie Gersten’s perfect husband doing in the apartment of a medium-rent call girl?

Getting stabbed with a pair of scissors, it turns out, following 80 not-very-suspenseful pages devoted to filling in the back story after Jonah goes missing. On paper the Gerstens seem perfect. They have a lovely home in Shorehaven, Long Island, funded by Jonah’s lucrative Manhattan plastic-surgery practice (Susie’s floral-design business is more of a hobby). They have adorable four-year-old triplets (in vitro, natch), two live-in Norwegian au pairs and a full-time housekeeper—it’s a pretty great life. Jonah, narrator Susie tells us, was devoted to her and not the cheating kind; we tend to believe her, since she rarely has a good word to say about anyone else. Susie is a trademark zingy Isaacs heroine (Past Perfect, 2007, etc.), happy to tell us all about her designer clothes, her better-than-decent looks and her fondness for life’s finer things. It’s no big shock when she confesses, “I’d never been the plumbing-the-depths type,” but she’s fun to be with and mildly witty about her snobbish in-laws, her dismal parents, the entitled senior partner in Jonah’s group practice and the dowdy homicide chief who rushes to declare the call girl the perp. The semi-snide repartee was fresher three decades ago in Compromising Positions (1978), and Susie’s grief at losing Jonah never has much emotional force, though her determination to vindicate her marriage rings true. None of this is meant to be taken terribly seriously, even after Susie joins forces with her elegant grandmother to investigate the holes in the DA’s case. There’s only one other viable suspect, and when the homicide chief finally admits that Susie has fingered the real murderer, our heroine seems more concerned about not being thanked properly than she is happy that the killer of darling Jonah is going to jail.

The mystery is barely there, but Isaacs’ fans will enjoy another sharp-tongued romp through the New York privileged classes and their foibles.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7301-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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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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A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE

Murder and mayhem plague a film set on a secluded island off the coast of Delaware in Little’s (Dear Daughter, 2015, etc.) sophomore thriller.

When film editor Marissa Dahl takes a job on a new film directed by the talented but temperamental Tony Rees, she’s not given a script and must sign a mile-long nondisclosure agreement. It’s not ideal, but she needs the work. Escorted by an attractive ex–Navy SEAL named Isaiah, Marissa arrives on Kickout Island to find a bustling set, headquartered at a beautiful hotel, that is cloaked in secrecy and beset with dysfunction. Once Marissa gets down to work, she realizes that picking up the slack from the previous editor, who was fired for unknown reasons, won’t be smooth sailing and that the movie is based on the real-life unsolved murder of aspiring actress Caitlyn Kelly 25 years ago on that very island. Most folks assume that an eccentric ferry captain named Billy Lyle, a friend of Caitlyn’s, was the killer, but there was never enough evidence to convict. A few people, however, think he may be innocent. Marissa sets out to discover what really happened to Caitlyn with the help of Isaiah and two intrepid, tech-savvy 13-year-olds—Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, whose parents work for the hotel. What she finds is a dead body and a whole lot of trouble. Readers fascinated with the behind-the-scenes machinations of a movie set will be enthralled, plus there’s a frisson of romantic tension between Isaiah and Marissa, and the island setting lends some spooky atmosphere. Snippets from Grace and Suzy’s true-crime podcast, Dead Ringer, are also sprinkled throughout. Though a killer on the loose adds a fair bit of urgency in the second half, the main focus is on Little’s singular narrator. Marissa relates to the world primarily through film and considers herself anything but typical: “It’s possible I’ve spent so much time watching movies that the language of film has infiltrated some primal, necessary part of my brain. I catch myself processing my own emotions in scenes, in shots, in dialogue.”

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-670-01639-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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