A detail-rich first novel, with some pacing issues, from an author with potential.

READ REVIEW

THE HOLY THIEF

Debut novelist Ryan delivers a gritty mystery set in Stalinist 1936 Moscow.

In this Soviet-styled twist on the police procedural, Captain Alexei Korolev of the Criminal Investigation Division in Moscow examines the gruesome torture and murder of a woman whose mutilated corpse was left on the altar of a former church. It turns out that the victim was a Soviet woman who had emigrated to the United States as a child—and she was also a nun. Soon after, a thief is found tortured and killed in a similar manner, and Korolev is drawn into a mystery involving Moscow thieves, government officials and a secret and extremely valuable religious icon. Although this novel is set in an earlier era, its Soviet setting and tone of paranoia may remind some readers of Martin Cruz Smith’s 1981 mystery thriller Gorky Park. Ryan does a fine job conveying the grim, oppressive atmosphere of everyday life in a totalitarian state. His attention to period detail is notable, particularly the culturally specific touches, as when Korolev admiringly reads a passage from the novel A Hero of Our Time by Russian author Mikhail Lermontov, or when one character is described as having a “smile as firm and uncompromising as a Pravda editorial.” Even General Secretary Stalin makes a brief, nonspeaking cameo. Ryan’s characterization of Korolev—a loyal apparatchik who hides a stubborn streak of individualism, as well as a Bible under his floorboards—is particularly well-handled, and other minor characters, such as the overworked government doctor Zinaida Chestnova, are also effectively sketched. But for all the effort and research that clearly went into the novel’s setting and characters, the pacing is at times a bit slow, and the mystery holds few surprises. Still, the Soviet society Ryan portrays will likely hold the interest of many readers, and could make for an original and diverting series in the future.

A detail-rich first novel, with some pacing issues, from an author with potential.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-58645-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more