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POPPY REDFERN AND THE MIDNIGHT MURDERS

History, suspense, and an appealing heroine combine in a series debut that should attract war buffs and many others.

Edwardian specialist Arlen (Death of an Unsung Hero, 2018, etc.) leaps forward 25 years to showcase a dedicated wartime volunteer who learns that the real danger in her hometown is not from the enemy overseas.

Little Buffenden was a quiet English village before World War II, but in the midst of the battle with the Nazis, the more immediate invasion is from the Yanks. Poppy Redfern and her grandparents have turned over their ancestral home, Reaches, to the American airmen known as the Midnight Raiders and moved temporarily to a smaller building on the property. Poppy, who serves as the Air Raid Precaution warden for the village, has a nighttime run-in with Lt. Griff O’Neal, one of the pilots, when each mistakes the other for the enemy. After that meet-cute, Poppy tries to focus on her business of enforcing blackout rules, but the other young women in the village are more attuned to the social benefits of so many visiting soldiers so eager for female companionship. In fact, village gossip suggests that one of the airmen has helped Doreen Newcombe get over her grief for her late fiance. After Doreen’s body, strangled with a nylon stocking, is found in the churchyard, sleepy Little Buffenden is no longer safe, and Poppy’s grandparents prevail upon her to accept Cpl. Sid Ritchie of the Home Guard as an escort. Although Poppy finds Sid tiresome, she agrees to please her grandparents. A second murder of one of the young women she’s known all her life motivates Poppy to do her own detective work, with some help from her dog and the increasingly friendly Griff. The nighttime actions of a bird-watcher suspected of the murders, Poppy’s discovery of a secret tunnel, a clue in the form of camphor, and her ambivalence about whether to accept Griff’s suit lead to an unsurprising denouement featuring a suspect who’s been under Poppy’s nose all along.

History, suspense, and an appealing heroine combine in a series debut that should attract war buffs and many others.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0580-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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THE WINNER

Irritatingly trite woman-in-periler from lawyer-turned-novelist Baldacci. Moving away from the White House and the white-shoe Washington law firms of his previous bestsellers (Absolute Power, 1996; Total Control, 1997), Baldacci comes up with LuAnn Tyler, a spunky, impossibly beautiful, white-trash truck stop waitress with a no-good husband and a terminally cute infant daughter in tow. Some months after the birth of Lisa, LuAnn gets a phone call summoning her to a make-shift office in an unrented storefront of the local shopping mall. There, she gets a Faustian offer from a Mr. Jackson, a monomaniacal, cross-dressing manipulator who apparently knows the winning numbers in the national lottery before the numbers are drawn. It seems that LuAnn fits the media profile of what a lottery winner should be—poor, undereducated but proud—and if she's willing to buy the right ticket at the right time and transfer most of her winnings to Jackson, she'll be able to retire in luxury. Jackson fails to inform her, however, that if she refuses his offer, he'll have her killed. Before that can happen, as luck would have it, LuAnn barely escapes death when one of husband Duane's drug deals goes bad. She hops on a first-class Amtrak sleeper to Manhattan with a hired executioner in pursuit. But executioner Charlie, one of Jackson's paid handlers, can't help but hear wedding bells when he sees LuAnn cooing with her daughter. Alas, a winning $100- million lottery drawing complicates things. Jackson spirits LuAnn and Lisa away to Sweden, with Charlie in pursuit. Never fear. Not only will LuAnn escape a series of increasingly violent predicaments, but she'll also outwit Jackson, pay an enormous tax bill to the IRS, and have enough left over to honeymoon in Switzerland. Too preposterous to work as feminine wish-fulfillment, too formulaic to be suspenseful. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52259-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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