Despite some inevitable repetition and a gimmicky frame, a teeming, beguiling Indian panorama wrapped in a clever whodunit.

SIX SUSPECTS

The author of Q&A (2005), the novel that became the film Slumdog Millionaire, returns with an equally high-concept tale that uses a murder investigation to launch a riotous tour of contemporary India.

After several years of legal proceedings, Vivek (Vicky) Rai is finally acquitted of a murder he undoubtedly committed. His father Jagannath, Home Minister of Uttar Pradash, throws him the party to end all parties—at which Vicky is shot dead. The Delhi police identify six suspects: corrupt womanizer Mohan Kumar; Shabnam Saxena, a sizzling actress Vicky had been pursuing; Hollywood adult-film producer Rick Myers; cell-phone thief Munna Mobile; Eketi Onge, member of a vanishing tribe from an island in the Bay of Bengal; and Jagannath Rai himself. As their back stories reveal, each had a powerful motive for wanting Vicky dead. But those back stories serve mainly as pretexts for a series of fantastical adventures that have little to do with the question of who killed Vicky. Munna, whose experiences most closely recall those of Ram in Q&A, hurtles from rags to riches, from impossible love to intolerable pressure. Tribesman Eketi, pursuing a totemic stone stolen from his people, is by turns befriended and exploited by a series of heartless manipulators before finding his ideal in Munna’s sister Champi. An American Candide (later linked to the murder investigation) flies to India in search of his mail-order bride, gets fleeced and ensnared in terrorism, then is placed in the Witness Protection Program. Shabnam Saxena grooms a destitute supplicant to be her professional double, with predictable results (think All About Eve with a vengeance). And the ruthless public officials of Uttar Pradash struggle to outdo each other in their zestful search for more money and power. Along the way, a hundred walk-on characters flare to vivid life, then vanish in the rearview mirror to make way for others equally memorable.

Despite some inevitable repetition and a gimmicky frame, a teeming, beguiling Indian panorama wrapped in a clever whodunit.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-60503-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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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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Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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