An extremely clever thriller that dazzles on every level.

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Death By Arbitrage or Live Low Die High

This third volume in a series of techno-thrillers pits Chester and Urno’s (Death by Tech, 2014, etc.) scientist/sleuth against murderous inside traders.

Halsted Aeronautic Lab scientist and amateur detective Evan Olsson’s latest string of misadventures begins at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He and girlfriend Lissa Larson are enjoying a magical evening when a fire alarm clears the building. Evan keeps the blaze in mind when he begins working with FBI agent Matt Emerson on a nationwide system to catch inside traders. Intending to be more thorough than the Securities and Exchange Commission, they begin by considering “traders who always seem to get it right, who act in advance of public information.” After a corporate jet for the K-Works company goes down, Evan and Matt are alerted to profitable trading activity by Raptor Holdings, run by Festron Bordick. While working this case, Evan juggles a tricky love life: the woman he desires, Lissa, is artistic but distant; the woman who desires him, Holly, is an emotional manipulator (and also Lissa’s stepsister) who insists on meddling in his relationship. Complicating Evan’s world further is his very own Moriarty, Chet Parsons, a former colleague who likes to drop in and try to kill him. Authors Chester and Urno pepper this sophisticated blend of finance, technology, and mystery with heavy doses of dry wit. Evan’s narration pops: “The loss of the shirt pained me, though not as much as second-degree burns would have.” Explanations of trading data are clear and frequently excellent, as is the psychology driving the scientific mind: “I am always looking for simplifications, ways to explain two different observations with a single underlying principle.” Most remarkable is the balance achieved among the novel’s many winding plotlines. Al, Evan’s artificially intelligent best friend, helps keep him sane during quiet moments, and in a masterful twist, the villains use Evan and Lissa’s penchant for vacations in the final gambit. Whether or not you’ve read the first two Evan Olsson mysteries, his newest is an engrossing romp filled with bleeding-edge surprises.

An extremely clever thriller that dazzles on every level.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4787-5961-4

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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...


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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