A Scandinavian Wicker Man without the atmosphere.

THE DEVIL'S WEDDING RING

Max Fjellanger returns to Norway for the funeral of an old friend and finds himself immersed in a 30-year-old murder case in Sundstøl’s (The Ravens, 2015, etc.) latest.

As young policemen in Eidsborg, Max Fjellanger and Knut Abrahamsen investigated a missing person case that was never solved; shortly afterward, Max left the police force and moved to America, where he became a private investigator and married Ann. He and Knut did not keep in touch, but when he hears about his old friend’s death, he impulsively returns to Norway for the funeral and confronts memories of the past. Knut’s death, ruled a suicide at first, seems suspicious, as does the recent disappearance of a young woman who was researching an old stave church and its wooden saint. The missing man from 30 years ago also had a scholarly interest in that church and its ritual traditions. Assuming this is no coincidence, Max teams up with a librarian named Tirill to uncover the truth behind these disappearances and Knut’s death. Rumors suggest that some members of the church community may be conducting their own, more pagan rituals connected to the summer solstice. Max and Tirill must be careful whom they trust, because some people are clearly willing to kill to protect their centuries-old secret. There is a clever plot here, and Max and Tirill are an engaging duo, but the novel lacks emotional depth. Most of the characters just don’t seem complex enough to drive the action-packed plot, and this leaves many scenes feeling flat. Though the novel moves somewhat slowly, the climax manages to feel rushed and lacks full explanation and development. The connection between early Christianity and paganism, while not new, could have been more thoroughly explored to add complexity and resonance.

A Scandinavian Wicker Man without the atmosphere.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0280-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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