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FUTURE PAST PRESENT

A TALE OF THE MYSTERIOUS HUDSON VALLEY LIGHTS

An offbeat paranormal thriller that enthralls even as it sometimes meanders.

A medical student experiences an inexplicable connection to a mysterious nursing-home resident in Holder’s debut supernatural mystery novel.

Zoë Abrams is looking forward to her two-month geriatrics rotation at the Hampton Oaks nursing facility in New York. Even if her callous mentor, Jack Adams, has spent time in prison and rehab for cocaine and alcohol, Zoë enjoys working at Hampton Oaks with older patients. One patient in particular captures most of her attention: Virtually catatonic, John Asterman makes staff members uncomfortable, but Zoë feels a “remarkable sense of peace” in his presence and seemingly hears his thoughts. She wants to help him in whatever way she can, but, as his medical file is sparse, she must enlist her friends to investigate Asterman’s background. This only stirs up more questions: What was the significance of the bizarre lights seen in the sky the same year Asterman was admitted to Hampton Oaks? The leisurely paced tale hints at paranormal events as it progresses, from apparent telepathy to the possible presence of aliens and UFOs. Much of the story is veiled in mystery and unexplainable connections; it’s some time before readers learn whether Zoë’s recurring nightmare of her sad demise is a piece of the overall puzzle. At the same time, prolonged scenes with her friends, in which the characters exchange scary stories on Halloween or go on a date, do little to fuel the main plot. Suspense still manages to build once Steven Pratt, a dubious government investigator, begins to nose around Zoë and the people she knows (when Pratt questions an old man, the interviewee “knew with no uncertainty that he must remember the name or this obstinate man would beat him to a pulp”). This marks the introduction of violence to the story, including vicious profanity, a startling assault, and murder. But the narrative ultimately promotes benevolence, most strongly in the final act, which provides some much-needed answers.

An offbeat paranormal thriller that enthralls even as it sometimes meanders.

Pub Date: March 31, 2022

ISBN: 9781800163294

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Vanguard Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2023

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE BURNING

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

When two police officers stop for a bit of dalliance, screams from the nearby woods introduce them to a puzzling and horrifying murder.

Chuck Skidmore and Mona Kurtz don’t arrive in time to rescue a man who’s being burned at the stake, a sight that will haunt their dreams. Police Chief Kate Burkholder arrives on the scene with her husband, John Tomasetti, an agent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who’ll join her and many other cops in a task force investigating the bizarre murder. Born Amish, Kate ran away from Painters Mill, found her vocation in law enforcement, and eventually came home as the police department’s chief. Over the years, she’s built up some trust with the local Amish community, who generally prefer to keep their problems to themselves. The victim is Milan Swanz, a troubled former schoolmate of Kate’s whom she’s arrested several times. A divorced man with four children, he’d been recently excommunicated by the Amish. Although Milan was far from popular, Kate meets a wall of silence from even her own brother, one of many people who had disputes with the hot-tempered man. Kate’s theory of the crime, based on stories in a book popular with the Amish, is so bizarre that she has trouble believing it herself. When her brother is arrested, she’s removed from the task force but continues to investigate, putting her in the sights of some very determined killers.

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250781116

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2024

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