Justice and gratification delayed, but not denied.

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THE GARDENS OF THE DEAD

Friar, a former barrister, struggles with the troubled legacy of a dead colleague.

Monk-turned-barrister Brodrick’s second featuring Father Anselm (The 6th Lamentation, 2003) is that uniquely British brand of thriller: no violence (except in the past, obliquely sketched) and no sex—just a plot as byzantine as an obscure chess gambit and suspense driven largely by threatened exposure of the commonalities lurking beneath class distinctions. When Elizabeth Glendinning, a respected London solicitor, dies suddenly of a congenital heart ailment after visiting a flea market, she’s already disseminated a blueprint for the comeuppance of an unsavory client, Graham Riley, whom she once reluctantly defended against a charge of procuring runaway teenagers as prostitutes. Her former co-counsel, Anselm, departed the law for the monastery after his cross-examination of a key witness, George Bradshaw, goaded the latter into fleeing the courtroom, resulting in Riley’s acquittal. Now Anselm, per posthumous instructions, seeks former homeless-shelter manager Bradshaw, who departed home for the streets after his son, John, tried to vindicate his father and drowned under suspicious circumstances. The police were unable to pin John’s murder on prime suspect Riley, who now operates a marginal salvage business with his long-suffering wife, Nancy. Elizabeth apparently thought she could destroy Riley’s reputation by exposing a double set of books, which would somehow facilitate the reopening of the murder case. Or so Anselm and readers suppose throughout the bulk of this book. In meetings on the streets, Elizabeth and Bradshaw had plotted Riley’s downfall. Bradshaw, whose short-term memory was impaired after a beating by young toughs, is supposed to deliver to Anselm notebooks on how evil might be undone, and an envelope containing the goods on Riley—but he misplaces them. When Elizabeth’s plan for exposing Riley proves faulty, the real, unlikely history linking Elizabeth, Bradshaw and Riley emerges. Only the compelling sway exerted by Brodrick’s characters and language render this unwieldy, non-sinister and at times maddeningly non-cohesive narrative impossible to put down.

Justice and gratification delayed, but not denied.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03498-3

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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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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A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE

Murder and mayhem plague a film set on a secluded island off the coast of Delaware in Little’s (Dear Daughter, 2015, etc.) sophomore thriller.

When film editor Marissa Dahl takes a job on a new film directed by the talented but temperamental Tony Rees, she’s not given a script and must sign a mile-long nondisclosure agreement. It’s not ideal, but she needs the work. Escorted by an attractive ex–Navy SEAL named Isaiah, Marissa arrives on Kickout Island to find a bustling set, headquartered at a beautiful hotel, that is cloaked in secrecy and beset with dysfunction. Once Marissa gets down to work, she realizes that picking up the slack from the previous editor, who was fired for unknown reasons, won’t be smooth sailing and that the movie is based on the real-life unsolved murder of aspiring actress Caitlyn Kelly 25 years ago on that very island. Most folks assume that an eccentric ferry captain named Billy Lyle, a friend of Caitlyn’s, was the killer, but there was never enough evidence to convict. A few people, however, think he may be innocent. Marissa sets out to discover what really happened to Caitlyn with the help of Isaiah and two intrepid, tech-savvy 13-year-olds—Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, whose parents work for the hotel. What she finds is a dead body and a whole lot of trouble. Readers fascinated with the behind-the-scenes machinations of a movie set will be enthralled, plus there’s a frisson of romantic tension between Isaiah and Marissa, and the island setting lends some spooky atmosphere. Snippets from Grace and Suzy’s true-crime podcast, Dead Ringer, are also sprinkled throughout. Though a killer on the loose adds a fair bit of urgency in the second half, the main focus is on Little’s singular narrator. Marissa relates to the world primarily through film and considers herself anything but typical: “It’s possible I’ve spent so much time watching movies that the language of film has infiltrated some primal, necessary part of my brain. I catch myself processing my own emotions in scenes, in shots, in dialogue.”

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-670-01639-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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