The fourth in this entertaining series (Flask of the Drunken Master, 2015, etc.) is a nicely balanced combination of...

A 16th-century ninja and priest make an oddly effective pair of sleuths.

Kyoto has become ever more dangerous since the death of the shogun and the seizure of the city by the warlord Matsunaga Hisahide. Hattori Hiro, a highly trained shinobi assassin posing as a translator, has been hired to protect Father Mateo, a Portuguese priest tending to the poor. Jiro, a young man apprenticed to a rice merchant, begs the priest to help him when he awakens after a night of drinking to find the dead body of a girl he knows beside him on a riverbank. The young woman is Emi, the daughter of an actor, according to Japanese law, a person of no status whose death is not worth investigating. Father Mateo is horrified, and once Hiro learns that Emi’s father, Satsu, is really Hiro’s uncle and a shinobi in disguise, he’s willing to help as long as the investigation doesn’t endanger the priest. Emi, unlike her plain and obedient sister, Chou, was unwilling to marry and wanted to become a teahouse entertainer but had been unable to find anyone to train her. The murder weapon was a leather thong that held a gold coin; anyone who could afford to give Emi that coin must be suspect in her death. But there are plenty of other suspects, including Chou’s betrothed, an actor Emi seduced. A danger to them all is Yoriki Hosokawa, an assistant magistrate who yearns for higher status and resorts to blackmail for the money he requires. Hiro has been warned that they're marked for death if they don't leave the city soon, but Father Mateo is determined to know the truth before they leave. Since everyone in the case is telling lies, it’s good that both Hiro and the priest are practiced at unmasking deceit.

The fourth in this entertaining series (Flask of the Drunken Master, 2015, etc.) is a nicely balanced combination of mystery, political machinations, and Japanese customs.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63388-181-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016


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


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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