But then, to read Eco well, it helps to know about everything. Not quite as substantial as The Name of the Rose but a smart...

NUMERO ZERO

The sun is shining, the world is spinning, and the great Italian novelist and semiotician has a new book—which means that a conspiracy theory must be afoot somewhere close by.

Working territory much resembling that of Foucault’s Pendulum, Eco (The Prague Cemetery, 2011, etc.) spins a knotty yarn. The time is June 1992—meaningful to Italian readers as the inauguration of an ostensibly clean period in a notoriously corrupt politics. A hack and ghostwriter, Colonna (whose name means “column”), is long on brains if short on talent; as he says, “Losers, like autodidacts, always know much more than winners.…The more a person knows, the more things have gone wrong.” Ah, if he only knew the half of it, for just when it seems that he has no prospects left, he’s summoned to pen a memoir by a journalist who’s cooking up a Potemkin village of a newsmagazine, funded by a magnate who keeps secret the fact that Domani (tomorrow) will never actually hit the newsstand. Say what? Why write a book for a writer? Why staff a paper at much expense when it’s not really real? And why keep at it when the paper, stuffed with celebrity romances, scandal, and innuendo, is so obviously a vehicle for misinformation—and even blackmail? Those are modest mysteries compared to a larger one that implicates Italian history and society. Suffice it to say that much of the brouhaha concerns a certain baldheaded, square-jawed former dictator who brought Italy to ruin long before Colonna’s wheels ever started spinning, overlapping into the seamy sordidness of the Tangentopoli, or “bribegate,” of the narrative present. For all that, Eco draws in contemporary political figures, and dead popes, and assassination attempts, and terrorists, and banking scandals—well, it helps to know a bit about recent Italian history to keep up with what’s going on, especially when it’s often turned on its head.

But then, to read Eco well, it helps to know about everything. Not quite as substantial as The Name of the Rose but a smart puzzle and a delight all the same.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-63508-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable...

TOUGH CUSTOMER

A manhunt for a homicidal stalker reunites an ex-cop and his long-lost daughter, in Brown’s latest thriller (Rainwater, 2009).

Private eye Dodge Hanley, who left the Houston police for Atlanta years before, is summoned back to Texas by his long-ago flame Caroline King, now a successful realtor. Caroline wants Dodge, who once rescued her from an abusive fiancé, to lend his sleuthing skills to find Oren Starks, the man who burst in on her daughter Berry and Berry’s co-worker Ben at Caroline’s lake house near the small town of Merritt. Shooting and wounding Ben, Oren fled, but not before vowing to murder Berry. A dismissed co-worker at the Houston marketing firm where Berry and Ben work, Oren was unhinged by his thwarted efforts to woo Berry and another colleague, Sally Buckland. Dodge (who, unbeknownst to Berry, is her father) and local deputy Ski Nyland join forces to track Oren down. Ski’s call to Sally finds her strangely reluctant to corroborate her previous claim of sexual harassment against Oren, perhaps because Oren has a gun to her head during the call. Despite a leg injury sustained at Caroline’s house, Oren confounds pursuers by somehow managing to be in several places at once. He breaks into a Merritt motel room, fatally wounding a teenager who surprises him there. Sally’s body is found hanging in the closet of Berry’s Houston home. Oren takes an elderly couple hostage in a campground, and kills again before disappearing into the Big Thicket, a treacherous, swampy national park. Brown’s trademark romance spiced with raunch serves her well as she orchestrates two parallel lust stories: Caroline’s and Dodge’s passionate but brief encounter in 1978, and the present frisson between Berry and Dodge’s younger doppelgänger, hard-boiled cop Ski. The narrative, slowed by too many talky scenes and descriptive filler, eventually rewards readers’ patience with a bang-up surprise ending. 

Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable summer read.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6310-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more