The authors deliver noir done well in dark-city descriptions and a cast of damaged characters but fall short on delivering a...

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WE WERE KINGS

Tough guys in a tough town as the Irish Republican Army wages war in 1950s Boston.

O’Malley and Purdy’s sequel to Serpents in the Cold (2015) picks up several years after Cal O’Brien lost his wife in a firebombing, and his mental scars are still deep and raw. He's a former cop, now a private investigator, and recruits his piano-playing, reformed junky pal, Dante Cooper, to help the police in Irish Boston. Owen Mackey, Cal’s cousin and a police detective, senses that his case is not just a bizarre murder and asks for their eyes and ears in the Irish neighborhoods of the city. Boston suffers in a heat wave and bodies start showing up. One, tarred and feathered, sends a signal that this is bigger than local gangs at play. In Galway, Sean “the General” Mullen is managing a gun and ammunition trade from Boston to the homeland for the IRA and sends his soldiers to fix the problem of a stalled shipment. The war of Republicans and Royalists is imported to Boston Harbor. It's hard not to compare this novel with its predecessor, especially with an overabundance of references to the back story. But this one drags. Although O’Malley and Purdy do violence extremely well, the suspense in this story is anemic—an endless watch of sitting in cars and drinking, sitting in bars and drinking, Cal and Dante each wallowing in flashbacks to life before trauma. The story starts well as the mystery builds on the body count, but once the reader knows who's on the killing end and who's trying to take control of the missing boatload of guns, it becomes predictable. One good outnumbered shootout to close the loop and the novel ends with a fizzle. This book feels like a place holder for the next.

The authors deliver noir done well in dark-city descriptions and a cast of damaged characters but fall short on delivering a thrill.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-32353-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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 appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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