DEAD OF WINTER

Though Staub’s look at divisiveness within communities, especially differences over child-rearing, addresses some serious...

Spirit, an omniscient guide, helps residents of a small town find a missing boy who may have been kidnapped.

Living in the idyllic town of Lily Dale has felt like a dream for Bella Jordan, who moved from New York City following the sudden death of her husband. Now Bella runs the Valley View Manor guesthouse and spends most of her time trying to keep Max, her young son, out of trouble. But Max is easy to take care of compared to neighbor Misty Starr’s son, Jiffy, a curious kid who doesn’t know when to quit. Bella prides herself on values like common sense, something Misty lacks, and she feels more like admonishing the young mother than expressing kinship with her, even though Max and Jiffy are close friends. Misty tries to keep an eye on Jiffy through his daily ramblings, but she’s been distracted more than usual lately by the news that her military husband won’t be home for Christmas. Michael refuses to call Lily Dale his home, and he’s wary of the very idea of a guiding Spirit, even though Spirit is what brings most people to Lily Dale. In her role as a psychic, Misty is a natural believer, and even Bella finds herself thinking that Spirit may be communicating with her. When Jiffy doesn’t come home from school one day as a winter storm approaches, both Bella and Misty worry that something has gone wrong, and when Max cheerfully announces that Jiffy knew he was going to get kidnapped, the two mothers must spring into action and work together despite their very different parenting styles.

Though Staub’s look at divisiveness within communities, especially differences over child-rearing, addresses some serious real-world concerns, the lack of focus in her small-town setting and her use of outsiders as the bad guys do little to develop the world of Lily Dale (Something Buried, Something Blue, 2016, etc.).

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68331-333-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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

BADLANDS

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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