A thought-provoking mystery with credible dialogue and convincing characters.


In Towler’s debut novel, a small-town Louisiana university professor encounters “all kinds of weird” when she’s drawn into a bizarre investigation.

Forensic anthropologist and college professor Lula Logan has a curvy figure and unpolished nails “long enough to pick up a bone shard.” Lula’s ex-lover, Detective Devon Lemonde, needs her help finding the body that belongs to a severed finger delivered to police headquarters. Although Lula would rather concentrate on her research and classes than help Devon, the mystery draws her in. Another digit turns up at a local movie production company run by avid traveler Preston Pratt and his diminutive partner, Blaine Dworkin. It employs an unusual group of people, including Sherry, a beautiful drug distributor and one of Lula’s students; neck-tattooed pretty-boy Juanito; and teenage landscaper/wannabe-rapper Melvyn. Lula gives Melvyn a ride home from work and meets his single mother, Bebe Armstrong. That night, the women enjoy drink-enhanced girl talk that readers will find entirely genuine. The same goes for Lula’s yearning for Devon, who previously betrayed her by not revealing his marital status; although he’s still married, he still tries to woo Lula back. But at the town’s annual Hot Sauce Festival, she catches the eye of U.S. Rep. Ambrose Girabeaux, who’s pretty hot himself. As the investigation grows darker, major characters meet untimely ends, but the novel’s rich content offer readers much more than mere murder. The focus of Lula’s academic research, for example, is discovering scientific evidence of atrocities suffered by slaves. Other subplots touch on subjects as diverse as revising copyright legislation and planning for a natural-gas pipeline. Although it’s not front and center, the subject of race consistently ripples beneath the surface. For instance, the African-American Lula feels that the white officers working with her think of her only as “a black female cadaver-digger,” and one cop, convinced he’s not a racist, says that he’s “just not interested in anyone who isn’t white.”

A thought-provoking mystery with credible dialogue and convincing characters.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9968772-1-3

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Inimitable Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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. 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.


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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