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RED DUST

No real thematic punch but a fast, furious, and genuinely fun read.

The latest novel by acclaimed Cuban writer Yoss is a quirky blend of science fiction and hard-boiled mystery that follows a robotic police officer as he attempts to catch an infamous criminal—and save humankind in the process.

A thinly veiled homage to Raymond Chandler, the novel’s main character is a humanoid robot named Raymond, after his favorite writer, whose main character he emulates by wearing a trench coat and broad-brimmed hat. A police officer working on the William S. Burroughs trading station—which orbits around Titan and is the only station in the solar system where humans can make intergalactic deals with aliens—Raymond finds his mundane existence turned upside down when a wanted alien escapes his bounty-hunter captors while on the station. The criminal, Makrow 34, has unparalleled psionic powers and kills another alien while fleeing. Raymond’s bosses—the Galactic Trade Confederation—want the potentially volatile situation resolved as quickly as possible and tell the positronic police officer to apprehend Makrow 34 before he leaves the system. After asking himself “What Philip Marlowe would do,” Raymond enlists the help of a human with similar psionic abilities who's currently imprisoned on the station, and together the unlikely duo set out on a highly dangerous escapade. The trench coat–wearing robotic detective makes for an appealing and at times comedic protagonist, and Yoss’ clear and focused writing style keeps the reader turning pages throughout. But while the worldbuilding is exceptional in some parts (an independently owned space station held together by superglue and staples, for example), the characters never rise above two-dimensionality. The narrative, however, is action-packed—literally jumping from one adventure to another—and the conclusion’s highly satisfying.

No real thematic punch but a fast, furious, and genuinely fun read.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63206-246-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Restless Books

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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