Shames has created an endearing hero with an old-fashioned sense of honor. Although his latest is less puzzling than its...

A RECKONING IN THE BACK COUNTRY

A small-town chief of police acquires a dog en route to solving a vicious case of murder.

Samuel Craddock, who’s come out of retirement to run the local police department on a shoestring, finds his resources stretched when Margaret Wilkins reports her husband missing. Dr. Lewis Wilkins, last seen leaving the couple’s vacation home on Jarrett Creek Lake, told his wife he was going fishing. When Craddock interviews Dooley Phillips, a friend of Wilkins' who owns a local marina and claims to have no clue where he could be, Craddock thinks he’s lying. Craddock’s also uneasy over a number of cases of dognapped pets and the rumor that there’s a dogfighting ring in the area that may be using them as bait. He has to wonder if the rumor is true when Wilkins’ badly mauled body is discovered in the woods. At first it seems he was attacked by feral dogs, but dogs surely didn’t tie him up before they attacked. While searching the woods, Craddock stumbles upon a starving puppy whose mother he finds dead, and he goes from temporary dogsitter to devoted pet owner. He learns that Wilkins’ life was a complicated one. He lost a major malpractice suit that left his family in financial trouble. Both his children are angry with their parents, and his wife seems oddly indifferent to his fate. He never did any fishing, but he did own a cabin cruiser he won in a poker game that Dooley somehow never mentioned. When Craddock finally finds Wilkins’ missing vehicle, it contains a handgun and $200,000 in cash. Is the money from gambling on dogfights? Craddock’s one childhood experience at a dogfight has given him a visceral hatred for the cruelty involved. Although he’s warned that it’s dangerous to meddle, he continues to hunt for answers.

Shames has created an endearing hero with an old-fashioned sense of honor. Although his latest is less puzzling than its most recent predecessor (An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, 2017), it’s still an enjoyable, often disturbing read.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63388-367-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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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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