PACIFIC BEAT

Mirroring the title of his marvelous debut novel, Laguna Heat (1985), Parker's third California thriller—after the uneven Little Saigon (1988)—is a moodily intense affair: the introspective and involving tale of a man who searches for his sister's killer among the citizens of Newport Beach. Cop-turned-treasure-hunter Jim Weir is glad to be back in his hometown after serving time on a frame-up in a Mexican jail. His older sister, Ann, greets him with good news—at 39, she's finally pregnant—and Newport cop Ray Cruz, her husband and Jim's best pal, is also there to share the joy. But that night Ann's body is found on the beach, stabbed 28 times. Who killed her? A local drunk reports seeing a cop car at the crime-scene, so at first Jim, hired by police chief Brian Dennison, digs into some local cops. Soon, however, a wild-card suspect arises: Horton Goins, who's just been released from the mental asylum he spent years in for killing a girl, and who (we know but Jim doesn't) now possesses Ann's missing diary—which confesses that she was pregnant not by husband Ray but by David Cantrell, a Trump-like developer and the father 24 years ago of her apparently aborted child. Did Cantrell kill Ann? He certainly seems responsible for toxic-dumping in local waters, key to an entangled subplot that plunks Jim in the middle of a ecology war between his activist mom and his girlfriend Becky, a mayoral candidate, and Cantrell and cop-chief Dennison, Becky's electroral opponent. Two scenes of stunning violence punctuate the narrative as Jim begins to investigate Cantrell and as the cops focus on Goins—whose ultimate identity proves as shocking, and as logical, a revelation as that of the real killer. A hothouse of full-bloomed characters and ripe emotions. Not as much fun as Heat—the action is too slowly deliberate, and sometimes overwhelmed by introspection—but a wiser, more mature work, resonant, literate, and powerful.

Pub Date: June 28, 1991

ISBN: 0312927924

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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