Thomas (Anatomy of Evil, 2015, etc.) supplies plenty of suspects and red herrings, ratcheting up the tension steadily as he...

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HELL BAY

A Victorian mystery that rewrites And Then There Were None with a very different ending.

Lord Hargrave hires detective Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, to provide security for his secret meeting with French Ambassador Michel Gascoigne to discuss a new treaty. The meeting will be disguised as a house party at Hargrave’s home on Godolphin Island in the Isles of Scilly. Barker’s cover will be provided by his lady friend, Philippa Ashleigh, a close friend of Lady Barker. The island has no telephone, only a red flag to run up a pole when help is required. Aside from the two detectives, the Hargraves, their daughter and two sons, and the ambassador, the party includes his lordship’s doctor and his two daughters; Delacroix, the ambassador’s bodyguard; the Honorable Algernon Kerry, an unpleasant old family friend recently returned from South America; Lady Alicia Travers; Colonel and Mrs. Fraser; and some 15 servants. On the first night, Hargrave is shot dead by an expert marksman, the ferry that brought the ambassador is sent away by a faked note, and Delacroix is found stabbed. Although the assassin has many opportunities to kill at will, he seems to be highly selective. A search of the island reveals only that the flag to call for help has been destroyed and the rifle used to kill Hargrave was stolen from his gun cabinet, suggesting an inside connection. Blamed for not protecting Hargrave, Barker and Llewelyn are frozen out but continue to hunt for clues to the killer. The preferred targets, members of the Hargrave family, lead Barker to suspect that the motive may be personal rather than an international conspiracy to stop the treaty.

Thomas (Anatomy of Evil, 2015, etc.) supplies plenty of suspects and red herrings, ratcheting up the tension steadily as he winnows the targets to make this period adventure one of his best.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 9781250077950

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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