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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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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