WALKIN' THE DOG

Mosley’s probing and stirring follow-up to Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (1997) presents a dozen further adventures of Socrates Fortlow, the ex-con struggling to protect his marginal, yet deeply rooted, life in blasted Watts. Despite their resolute refusal of melodrama, “adventures” is the word for these episodes, because Socrates is so far from the American dream of upward mobility that he never changes anything in his life—moving up to a new job as produce manager at the Bounty Market, moving out of his rent-free alley squat to a proper home—unless he feels he has to. It’s an adventure for Socrates to plant a tree and sleep with a woman in memory of a jailhouse friend, or to follow the sound of a sad jazz horn to its source, or to invite the Wednesday night discussion group that usually meets at Topper Saint-Paul’s funeral home to his house and tell them the story of a slave revolt in long-ago Louisiana. Once he’s laid down the rhythms of Socrates’s life in a spare prose that makes it clear what a gift it is to be “safe at least for one night more,” Mosley describes his hero’s run-ins with criminals and the law in the same matter-of-fact way, shorn of the self-seriousness that sank his sci-fi thriller Blue Light (1998). Socrates kills a mugger and waits for the police to come and get him; even though they’ve been all over him for every crime in the neighborhood for months, they leave him unsettlingly alone. The casual reminiscences of another ex-con shake him so deeply that he disconnects his newly installed phone and gets an unlisted number. Finally, he goes up against a killer cop in a climactic story that shapes the series more firmly than Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned without going for easy answers or easy sentiment. Delicately balancing the demands of individual stories and the whole cycle, Mosley uses his perpetually angry, sensitive hero to show that “bravery ain’t no big thing . . . . It’s love that gives life.”

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-96620-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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