Strong debut suspense novel set in Seattle. Did Denton Hake rob and rape Sandra Loyacano? He admits to the burglary, denies the rape, but is convicted of both anyway. Denton, however, is not your average burglar: He has a history of nonalcoholic blackouts, and for years has been having involuntary out-of-body episodes that reveal things he couldn't otherwise know. When he is granted parole, Denton moves in with his brother Elliot and is hired by Simon Lefcourt, a contractor with a soft spot for ex-cons. One day Denton is sent to the jewelry store that's run by Simon's daughter Gwen, a nymphomaniac who also has a special fondness for ex-cons. Business isn't good, Gwen tells Denton, and she can't keep up her insurance payments; then the store is burglarized. Denton immediately becomes a suspect. But Denton knows, though he can't prove, that Gwen robbed herself for the insurance on her inventory. Meanwhile, Denton sees lesbian shrink Randy Nelson, who believes his stories about out-of-body experiences. The OOBs began when Denton's father killed himself. Or did he? Denton supposedly discovered the body, although his recollection of events is hazy; there's also the possibility that Elliot had something to do with Dad's death. Things get even more tense between the brothers when Mimi, Elliot's alcoholic wife, threatens to leave him because his ``rapist'' brother lives over their garage. When Gwen is murdered, foggy Denton gets arrested, put on trial, and finally faces Death Row. What works here is the flat, immensely well-detailed storytelling, reminiscent of James M. Cain at his best, although the supernatural elements, at the same time, increasingly throw the plot off balance. Baum tries to have it both ways, heightening the supernatural while simultaneously offering a physical explanation for Denton's odd experiences, and he tries to float one too many subplots. Still, for much of its length a tough, original, and compelling debut, showing great promise. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 21, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15620-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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