Isaacs’ wit and wisecracks can’t save this one.

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TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE

A former FBI agent, planning to settle down and be a normal person on Long Island, smells a rat at her weekly lunch group.

When she met widowed hunk Josh, a top lawyer–turned–federal judge, and his now-14-year-old daughter, Eliza, Corie Geller thought she knew what she wanted. Instead of flying around the world interrogating terrorists for the government, she would marry Josh, become a wife and mother, and use her language skills to vet books in Arabic for U.S. publishers. That's how she landed at La Cuisine Délicieuse in Shorehaven, Long Island, lunching every Wednesday with the suburban self-employed. A landscaper, an eBay reseller, a low-end speechwriter, a photo retoucher, an internet data expert…but there’s one guy in the group who sets off her internal alarms. Pete Delaney sits in the same chair every week, won’t take his eyes off his car, keeps changing phones—it’s just weird. Even if he does check out to be what he claims to be—a freelance packaging designer—his many three-day out-of-town trips don’t quite make sense. So she and her dad, who's retired NYPD, launch a sub-rosa investigation. Following up every hunch, lead, and inkling she has about this guy is a full-time job. A full-time job for the reader, too. While the investigation goes on and on, often straining credibility, other possible plotlines in the book suffer. Josh’s dead wife, whose stuff is still all over the house. The daughter, whom Corie supposedly loves to pieces but who barely speaks a line of dialogue. The ex-boyfriend she still has the hots for. The boring husband she’s not so sure about. These characters and storylines are sketched in but languish as the Delaney investigation inexorably proceeds in excruciating detail. Still, Isaacs (A Hint of Strangeness, 2015, etc.) never forgets the need to charm the reader. Corie keeps up the nonstop sarcastic patter, and she really is a hoot. Her in-laws’ house: “they bought it from Mrs. Havisham then added indoor plumbing.” Pete Delaney’s pants: “strictly old-guy—the baggy kind that make men look as if penises hadn’t yet been invented.”

Isaacs’ wit and wisecracks can’t save this one.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4755-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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