A quick, enjoyable read for mystery lovers.

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ONE MORE DANCE

In his latest mystery, Cardinale (The Westside Kid, 2009) explores the intersection of violence, romance and family drama.

Julian Case is trying to get his life back on track. Since his wife’s death two years ago, he has thrown himself into maintaining his realty company and some semblance of stability for his family, which is slowly moving forward after their devastating loss. His twin daughters are busy with their own lives: Flo is finishing a degree and falling in love; Frankie, the head of her own household, is considering leaving her stable banking job to become a professional kickboxer. Julian’s son, Leo, is primed to take over the family business, even if he seems more focused on his social life than on closing real estate deals. Only Julian appears to be stuck halfway between his old and new lives. While attending a relative’s wedding in Italy, he meets Alegra, a professor who ignites the possibility of a new love and happiness. But it is not to be. Upon his return home to New Jersey, Julian finds Leo unconscious and bleeding, having been beaten at some point during a party held in his father’s absence (and without permission). Leo falls into a coma, leaving Julian to help solve the mystery of why anyone would want to harm his son and to re-evaluate his own life. Through investigating Leo’s attack, Cardinale explores how losing their matriarch redefined this family’s dynamics as well as Julian’s simultaneous feelings of hope and guilt about the prospect of finally moving on. Although less developed than romantically minded readers might like, Julian’s internal struggle keeps the Alegra subplot at the fore, and Cardinale interweaves it nicely with Leo’s attempted murder. Solid dialogue gives the reader a strong sense of the characters’ personalities, especially that of Leo, who, while central to the mystery, is unconscious for most of the story. But Cardinale occasionally dips into overzealous, descriptive meanderings, as with a scene involving Alegra and her young daughter. Alegra “turned on the radio for some soft music while she prepared dinner. Caprice was in the living room playing a word game on the iPad.” Such additions feel like unnecessary padding to an otherwise strong story.

A quick, enjoyable read for mystery lovers.

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1478704966

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2013

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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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The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom...

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LADY IN THE LAKE

Baltimore in the 1960s is the setting for this historical fiction about a real-life unsolved drowning.

In her most ambitious work to date, Lippman (Sunburn, 2018, etc.) tells the story of Maddie Schwartz, an attractive 37-year-old Jewish housewife who abruptly leaves her husband and son to pursue a long-held ambition to be a journalist, and Cleo Sherwood, an African-American cocktail waitress about whom little is known. Sherwood's body was found in a lake in a city park months after she disappeared, and while no one else seems to care enough to investigate, Maddie becomes obsessed—partly due to certain similarities she perceives between her life and Cleo's, partly due to her faith in her own detective skills. The story unfolds from Maddie's point of view as well as that of Cleo's ghost, who seems to be watching from behind the scenes, commenting acerbically on Maddie's nosing around like a bull in a china shop after getting a job at one of the city papers. Added to these are a chorus of Baltimore characters who make vivid one-time appearances: a jewelry store clerk, an about-to-be-murdered schoolgirl, "Mr. Helpline," a bartender, a political operative, a waitress, a Baltimore Oriole, the first African-American female policewoman (these last two are based on real people), and many more. Maddie's ambition propels her forward despite the cost to others, including the family of the deceased and her own secret lover, a black policeman. Lippman's high-def depiction of 1960s Baltimore and the atmosphere of the newsroom at that time—she interviewed associates of her father, Baltimore Sun journalist Theo Lippman Jr., for the details—ground the book in fascinating historical fact.The literary gambit she balances atop that foundation—the collage of voices—works impressively, showcasing the author's gift for rhythms of speech. The story is bigger than the crime, and the crime is bigger than its solution, making Lippman's skill as a mystery novelist work as icing on the cake.

The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom and the city it covers.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-239001-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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