A polished, confident whodunit brimming with personality and the right amount of intrigue and mayhem.

DHARMA

A REKHA RAO MYSTERY

An amateur sleuth investigates the murders of her father and her university mentor.

The star of this debut mystery is Rekha Rao, an Indian American art history professor caught in the middle of a violent nightmare. The Southern California–based story opens with Rao being unceremoniously notified by police about the heinous murder of her mentor, archaeology professor Joseph Faust. He was bludgeoned to death with a Hindu goddess statue possibly absconded from his excavation site in India. Rao is asked to assist in supplying information on a possible motive for Faust’s murder, but she’s still reeling from the devastatingly traumatic effects of the senseless killing of her own father, a physician bludgeoned to death in his clinic just three years earlier. That homicide became even more complex after a janitor was arrested for the crime. But when Rao insisted the accused was innocent and that police reopen the case, they refused. When one of her students is brought in for questioning and then arrested in connection with Faust’s murder, Rao knows she needs to work fast to find answers as various suspicions, accusations, and suspects (including Faust’s wife and his cross-dressing son) begin orbiting the criminal inquiry. Rao also becomes increasingly frustrated with the general pace of the police-led investigation and, against Pasadena Police Detective Al Newton’s advice, begins her own amateur sleuthing, which puts her directly in harm’s way.

Rao is an instantly likable character whose respect for her family and her Indian heritage makes her a courageous, determined, reliable, believable, and humanitarian heroine for readers to cheer as she perilously attempts to piece together both crimes. “My goal to take care of all my dharmas was not a facetious one,” the protagonist reflects. Her undeniable attraction to the confident, handsome senior homicide detective creates some added romantic tension and another layer of intrigue to the narrative. Playing out over the course of just a few months, the story demonstrates Kumari’s uncanny knack for putting all of her characters and crimes in place and tying up loose ends in an economy of pages. Combining Hinduism, Hindu mythology, old jealousies and grudges, family melodrama, hidden secrets, and another death, the novel presents a winning recipe for an absorbing read. While the tale has many plot elements continuously spinning, the academic-turned–actress-and-author keeps a firm grip on the main plotline, which she skillfully and quite suspensefully brings to a boil once the perpetrator of Faust’s death is established and the race for justice moves into full swing. Though a newcomer to the mystery genre, Kumari establishes herself here as a writer with ingenuity. She presents a satisfying crime tale with appealing characters who embody vivid and unique cultural perspectives. Delivering a smoothly written, impressive series opener, the author is a new mystery writer to watch.

A polished, confident whodunit brimming with personality and the right amount of intrigue and mayhem.

Pub Date: March 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-938394-42-3

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Great Life Press

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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