Engaging characters—many of them suspects—along with romance and a welcome spotlight on women’s contributions to the war.

POPPY REDFERN AND THE FATAL FLYERS

As World War II drags on, brave civilians volunteer to help the war effort in unexpected ways.

Poppy Redfern’s left home to work in London, writing scripts for films calculated to boost morale. Her first job takes her to Didcote Airfield, home of the Air Transport Auxiliary, a little-known group of female pilots who transport planes all over the U.K. and the war zone. Sent ahead to get started on the script, she’s driven to Didcote by Capt. Griff O’Neal, an American pilot she met in her debut, Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders (2019). Commanding officer Vera Abercrombie introduces her to the women who’ll be flying different planes for the film. Most are upper-class flyers who learned before the war. Edwina Partridge, who flies Spitfires and has a reputation as a man trap, makes a serious run on Griff. When Edwina’s plane crashes during filming, everyone seems devastated. But Poppy and Griff both have their suspicions about the crash, especially when some of the crew’s film vanishes. The next to die is Letty Wills, an experienced pilot licensed to fly heavy aircraft. Officials also put her accident down to pilot error. Poppy, who’s spent a lot of time getting to know the flyers, picks up on some unpleasant undercurrents. So while Griff pursues his own mystery, Poppy resolves to unravel the puzzle.

Engaging characters—many of them suspects—along with romance and a welcome spotlight on women’s contributions to the war.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984805-82-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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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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An expertly conventional puzzle.

THE TWIST OF A KNIFE

What’s worse than having an influential London critic skewer your latest play? Getting arrested for her murder, that’s what.

Novelist/playwright Anthony Horowitz, who’s awfully hard to tell apart from his author, right down to the playful acknowledgments, is determined not to renew his collaboration with detective Daniel Hawthorne, who’s repeatedly upstaged him in their past investigations. Instead, he has high hopes for Mindgame, his latest theatrical thriller, which has consistently entertained audiences in the provinces. When the play opens in the West End, Sunday Times reviewer Harriet Throsby brings him crashing back to Earth by panning the play and everyone associated with it at length. The next day, the police are at Horowitz’s door to take him in for stabbing Throsby to death that morning. It’s true that all three performers in Mindgame—Lakota star Jordan Williams, rising Welsh hopeful Tirian Kirke, and punk ingenue Sky Palmer—had ample motive to kill Throsby. So did producer Ahmet Yurdakul and director Ewan Lloyd. But they didn’t leave behind the fingerprints or DNA that make Horowitz the obvious suspect, though he insists, “It’s critics who kill writers: never the other way round.” In order to beat the rap, he’ll require timely assistance from Kevin Chakraborty, the hacker downstairs, and of course from Hawthorne himself, who clearly revels in Horowitz’s dependence on him as he immerses his clinging, unwilling client in a deep dive into Throsby’s earlier writings, which provide even more motives for her murder. The real-life author, mostly eschewing the floridly inventive meta fireworks of his earlier tales, sticks more closely to his golden age models this time, producing an efficiently old-fashioned whodunit with all the surprises you'd expect.

An expertly conventional puzzle.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-293-818-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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