A rollicking, Western-flavored frightfest.

COURSES OF THE CURSED

A CURTIS JEFFERSON NOVEL

Werewolves and worse haunt the Arizona desert in this supernatural thriller.

Bailey’s yarn, the second installment of his Curtis Jefferson trilogy, braids together loosely connected episodes involving macabre goings-on in rural southern Arizona, circa 1964. Framing the novel is the story of Curtis Jefferson, a Black teenager unjustly imprisoned for arson in the Fort Grant reform school, the former site of a U.S. Army outpost where 144 Apache women and children were massacred by vigilantes in 1871. Among the challenges Curtis faces are a violent, racist fellow inmate, periodic stampedes of ghost riders, and a werewolf that lunges at him when he briefly manages to escape. Meanwhile, local cafe owner Isabel Cienfuegos confronts similar problems. Her nephew Rayis a metal sculptor who’s crafting a coyote-themed memorial, commissioned by a mysterious Apache medicine man named Ezra; meanwhile, she has repeated run-ins with the werewolf who’s skulking about her restaurant—including an attempted rape. A third subplot concerns Pima policeman Eduardo Cruz and paralegal Betty Wood, who are trying to prove the innocence of Kenny Armenta, a catatonic man in a psychiatric ward who’s accused of tearing out his wife’s throat. Around the little-known real-life tragedy of the Camp Grant massacre, Bailey spins a colorful, intricate fictional world, steeped in well-observed Southwestern atmosphere and teeming with paranormal oddballs—including a headless lawyer who gallantly drives to the rescue of distressed people in his black Lincoln Continental and a squad of very, very old cavalrymen who still draw paychecks. This is not the spookiest of tales; the supernatural elements are matter-of-fact, and the horror flows more from grisly shock effects than from suspense. However, the characters are sharply drawn and vibrant, especially Ezra, whose infectious zest for deviltry (“Ah, the sound of human wailing and the gnashing of teeth—sweet music to my ears”) dominates the proceedings—although he meets his match in captivating spitfire Isabel. Bailey’s vigorous, if sometimes purplish, prose will keep readers turning pages: “Zombie equestrians—a murderous posse on a mission from hell—were abroad again in the night!”

A rollicking, Western-flavored frightfest.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73284-365-3

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Ingramelliott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more