A worthy addition to a well-devised mystery/thriller series.

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TAHOE PAYBACK

AN OWEN MCKENNA MYSTERY THRILLER

A California private investigator and his Great Dane explore the seamy underside of charities.

Philosophical sleuth Owen McKenna, aided largely by his dog, Spot, returns in this 15th volume of Borg’s (Tahoe Dark, 2016, etc.) mystery/thriller series. When the novel opens, Owen already has a personal case on his plate. His girlfriend, scientific researcher Street Casey, is being stalked by her father, Tom, who has threatened to kill her for her testimony, which sent him to prison for a long stretch. Street has refused Owen’s proffered protection, choosing instead to continue living on her own while learning self-defense techniques from him. But, having to pay the bills, Owen gets drawn into a new case involving charity scammers. The client is Douglas Fairbanks, whose parents obviously had a nasty sense of humor. The introverted, middle-aged millionaire wants Owen to find his missing, much-younger girlfriend, Isadore. The two get off to a rocky start when Owen questions Isadore’s motives: “You are suggesting that the love of my life is a con artist, a thief?” Fairbanks asks. Owen’s instincts prove correct after Isadora is found gruesomely murdered, as he discovers she earned millions off a fake charity. Soon three others connected to charity scams are similarly slain, and Owen is hunting a serial killer. All the while, he is preoccupied by the threat to Street. In Owen, a former San Francisco homicide detective, Borg has created a winning protagonist, both forthright and pragmatic. It’s a treat to see how his mind works. Owen has a dedicated partner in Spot, whom he has trained as both a search and an attack dog and who becomes a central figure in this installment. More problematic is the damaged Street, whom Owen struggles to protect while respecting her wishes. The author has provided a diverse group of believable suspects, including the son of a charity’s mark, a disabled artist, a forgetful scientist, and even Owen’s own client. Borg effectively sets all this action against the colorful backdrop of Tahoe and its visitors and citizens. The result is an engrossing whodunit that should keep readers guessing through the final twist.

A worthy addition to a well-devised mystery/thriller series.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-931296-25-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Thriller Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

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

THINGS IN JARS

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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