A superior entry—and hopefully not the last—in a long-running mystery/thriller series.

TAHOE DEEP

From the Owen Mckenna Mystery Thriller series , Vol. 17

Silent about an apparent murder for eight decades, an elderly man finds the past has violently caught up with him.

In Borg’s (Tahoe Skydrop, 2018, etc.) 17th installment of a series, Tahoe detective Owen McKenna investigates the brutal beating of nearly blind nonagenarian Daniel Callahan, who unconvincingly claims to have injured himself in a fall. Athletically built, dark blonde Mae O’Sullivan, one of Callahan’s neighbors, looks after the elderly man. A member of a diving community (Lake Tahoe is a mere block away), she meets with McKenna, who, after shaking her hand, remarks that she “didn’t crush my fingers, but I sensed that she could put on a serious squeeze if she wanted to.” After the bloated body of a male diver distantly related to Callahan washes up on a nearby beach, authorities have trouble identifying the cause of death but note the corpse has a tattoo of the famous Casper David Friedrich painting The Sea of Ice. From Jay Brandon “Brand” Morse, the dead diver’s sketchy roommate, McKenna learns that the deceased was obsessed with treasure hunting. The detective also discovers a possible link between Callahan’s beating and the matricidal Bosstro brothers, known as “Chinless” and “Flyboy.” The former’s microchin is “nothing more than a little bump on the way to his throat” and the latter sports a tattoo of a “champion horse fly” on his nose. McKenna’s girlfriend, Street Casey, helps connect the dots in a case whose origin reaches back 80 years to Callahan’s long-dead older sister. Casey and McKenna share charming, flirty banter and a love of dogs; he has Spot, a Harlequin Great Dane, and she has Blondie, a Lab. McKenna marvels that when Casey, an entomologist, meets O’Sullivan, a librarian, they find a “common ground, a science undercurrent that operates on research and principles of knowledge.” Conversations throughout the story are realistic and often witty. The vivid characters have a broad range of ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic upbringings, and each one has a distinct voice. The background information on diving, particularly free diving, in which the breath is held, is robust. The book offers a smart, intriguing mystery, and the series gives a strong sense of the Tahoe area, akin to what Carl Hiaasen’s novels provide for Florida.

A superior entry—and hopefully not the last—in a long-running mystery/thriller series.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-931296-27-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Thriller Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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