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

POPPY REDFERN AND THE MIDNIGHT MURDERS

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. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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