A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS

Gilbert’s series kickoff offers an intricate mystery, an interesting look at the past, and a clever and determined heroine.

A research-loving Virginia librarian digs up entirely too much information for her own good.

After a nasty breakup with her boyfriend, a narcissistic musician, left her too crushed to continue her job at Clarion University, Amy Webber moved in with her aunt Lydia Talbot in the insular little town of Taylorsford and took a poorly paid but interesting job at the local library, a historic Carnegie building. When well-known dancer/choreographer/instructor Richard Muir appears at the library, Amy and her assistant, Sunshine Fields, are struck by his good looks. But it’s his request for information that could prove Eleanora Cooper innocent of poisoning her husband that really hooks Amy. Richard lives next door to Amy’s aunt in the Cooper house, which he inherited from his mother’s relative, journalist Paul Dassin. Dassin, who was certain that Eleanora was innocent, wrote a fictional account based on the case. Although the jury exonerated Eleanora, everyone in town still thought her guilty, especially after she vanished following the trial. When Amy and Richard enter the archive, they find dementia patient Doris Virts shot to death, presumably because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Deeply upset, Amy does what she does best and begins researching the history of the town. It turns out that her own grandmother Rose Baker Litton’s claim that she saw Eleanora with an herbal containing recipes for poison made her the star witness for the prosecution. Although Amy’s abortive romance has made her gun-shy of anyone in the arts, she warms to Richard, who strives to overcome her distrust as they work together to solve murders old and new. A deeply buried secret will provide the clue that closes the case.

Gilbert’s series kickoff offers an intricate mystery, an interesting look at the past, and a clever and determined heroine.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68331-439-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

BADLANDS

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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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