THE MYSTERIOUS WEST

Don't get your hopes up: Despite Hillerman's best-selling name on the dust jacket, this isn't a new Leaphorn or Chee mystery (Sacred Clowns, 1993, etc.) but an anthology of 20 new stories by lesser, though still brand-name, authors (Lie Matera, John Lutz, Harold Adams, William J. Reynolds et al.). Nor will you find much of Hillerman's voice in the introductions to individual stories, which are so bland — "every single one of [Wendy Hornsby's] stories is worth searching for"; "J.A. Jance just keeps on getting better" — they could practically be interchanged. The best of the lot — Marcia Muller's bittersweet memoir of a young woman's abortive homecoming, Linda Grant's reunion of a daughter with her eccentric, threatened father, Susan Dunlap's deadpan account of a loony hostage-taking in Berkeley, Ed Gorman's spare, chilling tale of a boy whose father is maddened by a run of bad luck — typically subordinate atmosphere to the exploration of (generally troubled) family ties. The least successful — the undernourished whodunits by Dana Stabenow, Bill Crider, and Rex Burns, the postcard landscapes of Karen Kijewski and Bill Pronzini — seem swallowed up by their settings; and the main interest of the tales by Carole Nelson Douglas and Stuart M. Kaminsky is to watch their tenderfoot creators pick their way gamely through the sagebrush. Despite the novelty of its regional concept and the absence of reprints — a Texas-size disappointment, without even a story by Hillerman, a nonpareil novelist who'd better not quit his day job.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-017785-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Fans who still mourn the passing of Agatha Christie, the model who’s evoked here in dozens of telltale details, will welcome...

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MAGPIE MURDERS

A preternaturally brainy novel within a novel that’s both a pastiche and a deconstruction of golden-age whodunits.

Magpie Murders, bestselling author Alan Conway’s ninth novel about Greek/German detective Atticus Pünd, kicks off with the funeral of Mary Elizabeth Blakiston, devoted housekeeper to Sir Magnus Pye, who’s been found at the bottom of a steep staircase she’d been vacuuming in Pye Hall, whose every external door was locked from the inside. Her demise has all the signs of an accident until Sir Magnus himself follows her in death, beheaded with a sword customarily displayed with a full suit of armor in Pye Hall. Conway's editor, Susan Ryeland, does her methodical best to figure out which of many guilty secrets Conway has provided the suspects in Saxby-on-Avon—Rev. Robin Osborne and his wife, Henrietta; Mary’s son, Robert, and his fiancee, Joy Sanderling; Joy’s boss, surgeon Emilia Redwing, and her elderly father; antiques dealers Johnny and Gemma Whitehead; Magnus’ twin sister, Clarissa; and Lady Frances Pye and her inevitable lover, investor Jack Dartford—is most likely to conceal a killer, but she’s still undecided when she comes to the end of the manuscript and realizes the last chapter is missing. Since Conway in inconveniently unavailable, Susan, in the second half of the book, attempts to solve the case herself, questioning Conway’s own associates—his sister, Claire; his ex-wife, Melissa; his ex-lover, James Taylor; his neighbor, hedge fund manager John White—and slowly comes to the realization that Conway has cast virtually all of them as fictional avatars in Magpie Murders and that the novel, and indeed Conway’s entire fictional oeuvre, is filled with a mind-boggling variety of games whose solutions cast new light on murders fictional and nonfictional.

Fans who still mourn the passing of Agatha Christie, the model who’s evoked here in dozens of telltale details, will welcome this wildly inventive homage/update/commentary as the most fiendishly clever puzzle—make that two puzzles—of the year.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-264522-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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