As in the film A Beautiful Mind, our deepening awareness of the hero’s madness is the main plot. But Paul is not Russell...

LIVING DEAD GIRL

Goldberg rises above the sleazy glamour of his well-received debut (Fake Liar Cheat, 2000) and takes a far deeper cut into his material.

In Los Angeles, anthropologist Paul Luden gets a call from Bruce Duper, his neighbor on Granite Lake in upcoast Washington. Paul’s separated wife Molly has disappeared from their lonesome cabin. Their boat is docked, the cabin’s front door locked. Where’s Molly? Now in his mid-30s, Paul drives up with his new love, Ginny, 19, his navel-ringed student, whose insecure, demanding dialogue Goldberg captures dead-on. We hear about Paul’s parents and his pathetic losses with Molly. Paul and Molly, it seems, should never have married, both being manic-depressive (details about their illness are doled out slowly), but at least Molly’s body knows more than they do: it aborts one fetus, has another rupture her fallopian tube, and finally creates a monster with the one child she does bear, Katrina, a beautiful little dying girl with brain and body tumors which in themselves harbor. . . . Since childhood, Paul’s illness has had him drawing inner organs and bones of pigs and other animals—now he’s a bone-smart anthropologist. A large part of the story’s charms are Paul’s very, very big thoughts about the descent of man from a single cell—the mind of an anthropologist viewing his family’s wink of existence. When Katrina dies, Paul madly draws her inner organs, tumors (and what’s inside them), while under the delusion that he can plant her cells in the earth or lake and have them regrow. But now where’s Molly gone? His dead smolder inside him, flare up and sear—and is Molly or Katrina the title character?

As in the film A Beautiful Mind, our deepening awareness of the hero’s madness is the main plot. But Paul is not Russell Crowe, and our ties with him weaken the more we learn. Still, strong stuff as the world wavers.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56947-284-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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