An undemanding cozy with a colorful setting, pleasant characters, a promise of romance, and some forgivable plot...

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LAST PEN STANDING

Adultery! Blackmail! Murder! Paper crafting!

Delta Douglas’ dream comes true when her grandmother makes her a pre-inheritance gift that allows her to quit her job, move to Tundish, Montana, and go into business with her longtime friend Hazel Bray. Hazel’s stationery shop, Wanted, is located in an old sheriff’s office, complete with hitching post, and aims to keep up the traditions of a former gold-mining town. Delta joins Hazel in the Glitter Galore workshop at the Lodge, a high-end inn that’s been in the Taylor family for generations. Although Hazel, Delta, and their Paper Posse are supposed to keep out of sight of the elegantly attired guests at the annual gold-miner party, Delta strays far enough from the workshop to overhear a heated conversation between tipsy Vera White and her more sedate sister-in-law, two guests. When Vera’s found dead in the Lodge’s bar, both Hazel and her brother, Finn, are in trouble: Finn because he’s allegedly had an affair with Vera, and Hazel because she tries to cover for him. Finn, who works for the Taylors, is engaged to their younger daughter, though their elder, who manages the Lodge, disapproves. Their brother is a failed football star who’s come back to the family business. With the help of the Paper Posse, Delta uses paper products to create charts of possible suspects and motives and to try to figure out what Vera was doing in the bar, what she was hiding in a safe-deposit box, what bearing the tangled Taylor family dynamics have on Vera’s murder, and who has the goods on whom. An old-fashioned anonymous letter warning Delta off the case—and the help and support of a wildlife photographer/ex-cop and his retired K-9 partner—make her even more determined to clear Finn’s name and save Wanted in this series launch from Conroy (The Butterfly Conspiracy, 2018, etc.).

An undemanding cozy with a colorful setting, pleasant characters, a promise of romance, and some forgivable plot contrivances.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8403-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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