Think The Da Vinci Code with religious fanatics eager to light off an atomic weapon.

GOLDEN DAWN

Reporter Michael Shea’s tracking his uncle, a former IRA bomb maker, and he’s not surprised to find him in Iran with a Cechnyan rebel negotiating to build a trigger for a zealot’s nuclear weapon.

Kostigen’s (The Green Book, 2007) debut fiction is headline-driven, with a touch of mysticism added. Shea's tracked his nefarious uncle to Lake Urmia near the Turkish border where the bomb maker’s meeting with Mahmoud Talib, Iran’s rogue president. Talib is convinced he is the Mahdi, an Islamic redeemer meant to save the world, but Talib needs an ancient Zoroastrian text to prove it. And a bomb to persuade the world. The nonstop action begins immediately when Shea is ambushed while spying on the clandestine meeting. Shea escapes and inadvertently takes refuge in an apartment where beautiful widow Neda Ghazali is imprisoned. Neda’s assassinated archaeologist husband discovered the Zoroastrian text, the Zand-i Vohuman Yasht. Because Neda is a member of the Golden Dawn, a Zoroastrian sect charged with finding and protecting the true Mahdi, she’s also in danger of being killed. Shea and Neda escape to the ancient village of Shiz, trailed by Zhubin, ruthless agent of SAVAMA, the Iranian Gestapo, but Zhubin’s formidable skills are routinely matched by Shea’s krav maga training. There are dead bodies left behind, friend and foe, as Kostigen moves the action from Iran to Turkey to Chechnya to Italy to Belfast, but there’s time for Shea and Neda to end up in bed, where sex is transformed into the spiritual. The complicated back story links Talib to Mesbah Yavari, pederast leader of a fundamentalist seminary, imams and ayatollahs in Iran’s Haghani Circle and the Assembly of Experts, all while also referencing Sufi mysticism and John Paul II and the Third Secret of Fatima. Kostigen’s plain-Jane, reporter-style prose hits the pages slam-bang, with sometimes as few as three paragraphs to a chapter right up to a double-twist conclusion.

Think The Da Vinci Code with religious fanatics eager to light off an atomic weapon.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2933-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable...

TOUGH CUSTOMER

A manhunt for a homicidal stalker reunites an ex-cop and his long-lost daughter, in Brown’s latest thriller (Rainwater, 2009).

Private eye Dodge Hanley, who left the Houston police for Atlanta years before, is summoned back to Texas by his long-ago flame Caroline King, now a successful realtor. Caroline wants Dodge, who once rescued her from an abusive fiancé, to lend his sleuthing skills to find Oren Starks, the man who burst in on her daughter Berry and Berry’s co-worker Ben at Caroline’s lake house near the small town of Merritt. Shooting and wounding Ben, Oren fled, but not before vowing to murder Berry. A dismissed co-worker at the Houston marketing firm where Berry and Ben work, Oren was unhinged by his thwarted efforts to woo Berry and another colleague, Sally Buckland. Dodge (who, unbeknownst to Berry, is her father) and local deputy Ski Nyland join forces to track Oren down. Ski’s call to Sally finds her strangely reluctant to corroborate her previous claim of sexual harassment against Oren, perhaps because Oren has a gun to her head during the call. Despite a leg injury sustained at Caroline’s house, Oren confounds pursuers by somehow managing to be in several places at once. He breaks into a Merritt motel room, fatally wounding a teenager who surprises him there. Sally’s body is found hanging in the closet of Berry’s Houston home. Oren takes an elderly couple hostage in a campground, and kills again before disappearing into the Big Thicket, a treacherous, swampy national park. Brown’s trademark romance spiced with raunch serves her well as she orchestrates two parallel lust stories: Caroline’s and Dodge’s passionate but brief encounter in 1978, and the present frisson between Berry and Dodge’s younger doppelgänger, hard-boiled cop Ski. The narrative, slowed by too many talky scenes and descriptive filler, eventually rewards readers’ patience with a bang-up surprise ending. 

Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable summer read.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6310-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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