“Someone always gets punished when a crime is committed,” one character observes bitterly, “but not always the guilty...

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THE UNDESIRED

As in The Silence of the Sea (2016), Iceland’s Queen of Crime juggles two sets of crimes in two time frames to produce a slow-burning, bone-chilling tale. Following the fatal heart attack of his co-worker Róberta Gunnarsdóttir, Ódinn Hafsteinsson, trained as a dispassionate engineer, is asked to take over her investigative report on the half-century history of the Krókur care home for troubled young men. Ódinn, already presented as dying along with his 11-year-old daughter, Rún, in the prologue, soon follows Róberta in zeroing in on the deaths of Einar Allen and Thorbjörn Jónasson, two Krókur boys who were found in a car dead of carbon monoxide poisoning some 40 years ago. As Ódinn, who’s been on edge ever since the sudden death of his ex-wife, Lára Karlsdóttir, left him the sole guardian of Rún, begins to piece together different accounts of the case, the author takes a shortcut ahead of him, going directly back to the January day in 1974 when Einar first arrives at Krókur. Cleaning woman Aldís Agnarsdóttir instantly suspects that he’s much too old to have been placed there—in fact, he turns out to be 18, legally an adult—but that sharp perception doesn’t stop her from falling under his sway, since they’re both in different ways victims of Veigar and Lilja, the home’s tyrannical owners and mismanagers. As the two stories proceed in alternating chapters whose movement is as inexorable as that of the Titanic and the iceberg, the past will turn out to resonate in Ódinn’s investigation in ways that are as unexpected as they are shattering, with shocking new complications still foretold in the story’s final paragraphs.

“Someone always gets punished when a crime is committed,” one character observes bitterly, “but not always the guilty party.”Rest assured that the guilty and the innocent alike will share every punishment Sigurdardóttir can dish out.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-10740-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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