A highly entertaining caper set in a sleazy London underworld.

NOTES ON A MISSING G-STRING

A low-key jazz guitarist finds himself embroiled in a bitter feud between a high-class escort and a gangland boss in Kent’s novel.

Five years after surviving a shipwreck in the Gulf of Alaska, musician Jason Davey is back home in London, enjoying a relatively tranquil life as a resident guitarist at the Blue Devil nightclub. Then a visit from an old friend, fellow cruise ship worker Sal Jones, leads him down a path that takes him a long way out of his comfort zone. Sal’s friend, sex worker Holly Medford, had £10,000 (and a G-string) stolen from her locker while she was working at a local “gentlemen’s club.”She needed the money to repay a debt to notorious gangster Arthur Braskey, who’s growing increasingly impatient. Someone needs to track down the cash before Holly finds herself in real danger, and because Jason has done a little amateur sleuthing before, Sal thinks that the guitar player would be the ideal man for the job. The £10,000, though, turns out to be a mere drop in the ocean—and Arthur is a less-than-sympathetic creditor, as Jason learns the hard way. Despite the novel’s rather garish title, it’s a fairly impressive crime thriller. Jason is a well-crafted reluctant hero, and Kent’s writing is slick and engaging throughout. Jason has appeared in her fiction before—in 2012’s Cold Play and a later novella—and this entry is a little slow to hit its stride, as the loss of £10,000 and a lingerie item seems a rather modest premise for a crime novel; it’s not until around the halfway mark that things really start to escalate. However, this is a minor gripe, as even when the case seems underwhelming, the prose is strong enough to carry it through. There’s a tangential plotline involving Holly’s brother and a member of Jason’s band that becomes too conveniently relevant to the main story, but this doesn’t detract significantly from what is otherwise a skillfully crafted crime novel.

A highly entertaining caper set in a sleazy London underworld.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9880826-5-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Blue Devil Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2020

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Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

HOUR OF THE WITCH

A Puritan wife shocks her community and risks her life to file for divorce in 1662 Boston.

For more than five years, Mary, age 24, has been married to Thomas, 45, a prosperous miller. Thomas has been physically and sexually abusive, always taking care that there are no witnesses. He castigates Mary’s intelligence, telling her she has “white meat” for brains. The marriage is childless, drawing community suspicion to Mary. When she can’t hide bruises on her face, she lies about their provenance. The behavior, she tells herself, only occurs when Thomas is “drink-drunk.” The coverup continues until, cold sober, Thomas drives a fork into Mary’s hand, breaking bones. She flees to her parents’ home and files for divorce, which is allowed but only if grounds can be proven. Forks are a major motif: Not merely newfangled “cutlery” which Mary’s father, a shipping entrepreneur, hopes to profit from importing, but miniature pitchforks viewed by the Puritans as “Devil’s tines.” The forks, as well as other clues—a mysterious pestle, a pentagram etched on a door frame—are used to counter Mary’s compelling, but unwitnessed, claims of cruelty with insinuations of witchcraft. Divorce denied, Mary must return to the marital home and resort to ever more drastic expedients in her quest for freedom. Mary comes from privilege, and her parents clearly care about her. (Unlike the divorce magistrates, they don’t believe she injured her hand by falling on a tea kettle spout.) That they allow her return to Thomas to avoid witchcraft charges defies plausibility—death at Thomas’ hands seems a more immediate prospect, and her family wealth affords many other options. The charges come anyway—timed for maximum melodrama. The language, salted liberally with thee and thou, feels period-authentic. The colonists’ impact on nearby Native tribes is not Bohjalian’s primary concern here, but the Hobson’s choice facing women in Puritan society is starkly delineated.

Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54243-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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