RED, WHITE AND BLUE

With keen humor and fine characterizations, the bestselling Isaacs’s (Lily White, 1996, etc.) multigenerational saga explores the nature of American identity. Opening with a description of all-American Charlie Blair, a Wyoming FBI agent on the trail of a local militia group, and then jumping to the life of Lauren Miller, a New York reporter for the Jewish News who’s uncovering the latest in anti-Semitic bombings, the narrative unexpectedly mingles their lives: unbeknownst to all, they share a great-great-grandmother and the thread of a representative tale—the struggle to become American. What or who was their missing link? On sighting the Statue of Liberty, one Herschel Blaustein proposed to little Dora Schottland (already a couple of months pregnant, thanks to a dashing cad). She prudently accepted, later bearing Jacob, who—ll become Jake Blair when he makes it to Wyoming, and Ruthie, great-grandmother to Lauren. The split family tree, with one branch entering a —traditional— American frontier life, and the other remaining Jewish and New Yorkish, offers a fascinating example of the subtle changes undertaken for assimilation’s sake (not to mention for the purposes of Isaacs’s storytelling). When the plot returns to present-day Wyoming, Lauren spots the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, he’s a new convert to Wrath, the anti-Semitic group she’s in Jackson Hole to cover. Lo and behold, that handsome piece of America is our very own Charlie Blair, undercover. As things progress, he’s in imminent danger from the various nut- cases he’s informing on. This turn of event shifts the novel’s pace, turning the last pages into a race between good guys and bad. Nevertheless, thanks to Isaacs’s graceful touch, the quality of the story is never jeopardized. Both on the large scale and the small, an absorbing chronicle of the American character. (Author tour; TV satellite tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-017608-3

Page Count: 384

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.

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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