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Moody (Quick and the Dead, 2016, etc.), who can’t seem to make up her mind whether to be cozy or gritty, alternates actual...

An ex-detective resumes sleuthing in the grisly death of a childhood friend.

Even Maj. Norman Horrocks, retired veteran of many wars, is shocked when he and his dog find a mutilated, castrated body hidden by a blackthorn hedge on a country lane. Alexandra Quick, detective-turned–art anthologist, is devastated: the dead man is Tristan Huber, a successful interior designer with whom she grew up. The worst is finding out that he lived in agony for two or three days after having been tortured and having “cheat” carved into his chest. Dimsie Drayton, his sister, begs for help from Alex, once the youngest DCI in England. Then the body of a research fellow at the local university turns up at the foot of an oceanside cliff. He too was tortured and left to die, with only “L-I” carved on him—for liar? Trying to connect the two murders, Alex interviews as many of Tristan’s clients as she can find, including the owners of a family resort that may not be quite as innocent as it seems. Many more clients have moved or have disconnected telephone numbers or perhaps don’t even exist. In the midst of her despondency over her husband’s desertion and her heartbreak over her lost friend, who may have been even more lost to her than she thought, Alex is roped into a master class with the star of Spend a Penny, a sitcom about a seaside public toilet. Alex’s parents’ eccentricities—they named her Frideswide and her sister Ethelburga—and Maj. Horrocks’ failed attempts at topiary provide whimsical distractions from the serious business of sorting out multiple murders. Too bad Alex belies her name; she’s anything but quick when it comes to figuring out what’s being practically shouted at her.

Moody (Quick and the Dead, 2016, etc.), who can’t seem to make up her mind whether to be cozy or gritty, alternates actual wit with adolescent jokes and a parade of sliced-and-diced corpses.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8658-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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