Entertaining, escapist fare; to paraphrase one of Perez-Giese’s characters, it’s a great idea with good execution.

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In Perez-Giese’s (Pac Heights, 2013) gritty mystery, a man upends his life to search for his estranged younger sibling, who’s gone missing in Juarez, Mexico.

This densely populated, darkly comic tale starts off with a wallop: “The Mexican punched me so hard that I said my mother’s name, which is interesting, because I don’t like my mother.” This isn’t just an easy gag, as family dynamics are at the heart of this south-of-the-border adventure, which has atmosphere to burn. Jon Lennox, an unhappily married Colorado lawyer, ventures to El Paso after his brother, Chris, a real estate agent—and, in Jon’s estimation, a total screw-up—is apparently kidnapped. But several things about the case don’t add up. If Chris was abducted, why is there no ransom demand? And if Chris, as one private investigator theorizes, “might have been involved in some things not pertaining to real estate,” then why hasn’t his body been found? As Jon investigates, he befriends Iraan, a down-on-his-luck detective who tells him that he “doesn’t fit the profile of the grieved relative.” He also meets Jimmy, an Iraqi war veteran; and Sway, a local hustler. Chris, however, serves as the story’s narrator, and the novel might have been better served if Jon picked up the narrative once Chris disappears early on. That said, Perez-Giese evocatively immerses readers in the ethical morass and moral vacuum of the border drug wars, using local authorities to orient readers on who the players are, how they operate, and the stakes involved. He also has a good eye, and nose, for setting a scene: “The room smelled of microwave popcorn and disinfectant, and the phones rang without being answered,” he writes of one police station waiting room. The pieces of the puzzle eventually fit together—some more seamlessly than others. Meanwhile, tense confrontations and odd character quirks (such as a drug lord’s predilection for the original Star Trek) keep the momentum going.

Entertaining, escapist fare; to paraphrase one of Perez-Giese’s characters, it’s a great idea with good execution.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1480813496

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

A KILLER EDITION

Too much free time leads a New Hampshire bookseller into yet another case of murder.

Now that Tricia Miles has Pixie Poe and Mr. Everett practically running her bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, she finds herself at loose ends. Her wealthy sister, Angelica, who in the guise of Nigela Ricita has invested heavily in making Stoneham a bookish tourist attraction, is entering the amateur competition for the Great Booktown Bake-Off. So Tricia, who’s recently taken up baking as a hobby, decides to join her and spends a lot of time looking for the perfect cupcake recipe. A visit to another bookstore leaves Tricia witnessing a nasty argument between owner Joyce Widman and next-door neighbor Vera Olson over the trimming of tree branches that hang over Joyce’s yard—also overheard by new town police officer Cindy Pearson. After Tricia accepts Joyce’s offer of some produce from her garden, they find Vera skewered by a pitchfork, and when Police Chief Grant Baker arrives, Joyce is his obvious suspect. Ever since Tricia moved to Stoneham, the homicide rate has skyrocketed (Poisoned Pages, 2018, etc.), and her history with Baker is fraught. She’s also become suspicious about the activities at Pets-A-Plenty, the animal shelter where Vera was a dedicated volunteer. Tricia’s offered her expertise to the board, but president Toby Kingston has been less than welcoming. With nothing but baking on her calendar, Tricia has plenty of time to investigate both the murder and her vague suspicions about the shelter. Plenty of small-town friendships and rivalries emerge in her quest for the truth.

An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0272-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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