The charming protagonist surrounded by a winsome family should surely enhance future mysteries.

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Hit the Road Jack

From the Jack Ryder series , Vol. 1

Jack Ryder’s latest case involves a dismembered body, and a precursor to a string of deaths, in this first thriller of a series featuring the Florida detective.

Jack’s been at the Sheriff’s Department in Cocoa Beach for seven years, but only now has his first homicide assignment: Laura Bennett’s partially mutilated corpse that cops find in her bedroom. Her husband, Brandon, who claims he slept through the murder, is unsurprisingly the first suspect. But Laura’s estranged father was John Platt, the celebrity writer who bequeathed his millions to the daughter he didn’t know and possibly incited his three other children. So it can’t be a coincidence when Laura’s neighbor Rhonda Harris is discovered dead from an apparent suicide, her house filled with Platt’s novels. The subsequent death of a judge in a fire takes top priority, especially after a gasoline can at the scene points to arson. Jack, however, isn’t any closer to finding a killer, though there very well could be more than one. His personal life, as it turns out, is just as demanding. Helping his parents run their beachside motel, Jack meets and befriends Shannon King, famed country singer under an alias while she and her 6-year-old daughter, Angela, abscond from abusive husband, Joe. Rose (Edwina, 2016, etc.) bolsters her tale by thoroughly developing the protagonist. Jack, for one, is a single father raising spunky twins, Abigail and Austin, and moody teen Emily, daughter of former, killed-on-duty partner Lisa. The likewise riveting killer, whom readers know as The Snakecharmer, is frighteningly diligent, and whether or not he’s responsible for every murder remains a mystery for much of the story. Various subplots abound, including a flashback to the life of Annie, a college student who endured rape two decades ago. There are red herrings, though Rose sufficiently ties up all the storylines. Jack and Shannon’s (potential) romance, despite momentarily benching the detective’s ongoing investigations, is a welcome addition. But while the killer’s identity plus ultimate motivation are plausible enough to satiate and maybe even shock readers, the big reveal is something Jack probably should have noticed a lot sooner.

The charming protagonist surrounded by a winsome family should surely enhance future mysteries.

Pub Date: March 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5115-2949-5

Page Count: 424

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 24, 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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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

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