An intriguing, if somewhat uneven, blend of historical speculation and fast-paced thriller.

STRANGE KARMA

In Healy’s novel, a young woman inherits a fortune and a mystery.

American Cynthia Graham assumed that her estranged grandmother had died years ago, so when a British solicitor approaches her with news of an inheritance, she’s more than a little surprised. The legacy is a neglected cottage in the Lake District of England, some land, and a small amount of money. Cynthia finds a cryptic letter, written by her great-grandmother Emma, among her grandmother’s things and then discovers a red gemstone hidden in a desk’s secret compartment. It’s not just any gem; it’s a red diamond, one of the most valuable stones on Earth. Moreover, she finds a batch of letters that indicates that she’s the great-granddaughter of Sandy Irvine, George Mallory’s climbing partner on the ill-fated 1924 Mount Everest ascent. Irvine, it turns out, acquired two gemstones from a local during that trip—only one of which reached Emma. Intrigued by the provenance of the diamond and the whereabouts of its twin, Cynthia heads to Kathmandu where, aided by Gurkha ex-soldier Dorje, she sets about getting to the top of a mountain and the bottom of a mystery. It turns out that someone else acquired the second diamond through nefarious means and is hell-bent on getting the first. What ensues is an exciting, well-written blend of thriller and historical reconstruction; the latter element feels generic at times, but it’s convincing, nonetheless. The quality of the prose is strong throughout, with the depiction of the frozen wasteland of the Himalayas being particularly effective. Things fall apart a bit in the closing chapters, though, with the risky and arguably unnecessary introduction of a mythological element that threatens to undermine the realism of what has gone before. That aside, this is an assured piece of writing from a promising new author.

An intriguing, if somewhat uneven, blend of historical speculation and fast-paced thriller.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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