Burke’s brisk and ultimately suspenseful narrative offers wily and intricate plotting and sharply etched major and minor...

ANGEL’S TIP

Burke (Law/Hofstra Univ.; Dead Connection, 2007, etc.) scores on all counts in this thriller about a serial killer with a hair fetish.

Pathos underscores the complicated second case Burke hands to NYPD cop Ellie Hatcher. On her bare knees in an alley outside a club in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, Indiana University student Chelsea Hart tops a spring-break night of booze and drugs with sex by fellating a man who resembles Jake Gyllenhaal. Chelsea never learned how dangerous the Big Apple can be for party kids. In a few hours, someone drops her slashed body beside the East River. Jogging nearby, Ellie comes upon the scene. Soon she’s on the case and has a likely suspect under arrest. But several unsolved, cold cases unsettle Ellie. Since all of them involve victims with cut or hacked-off hair, she suspects a serial killer committed the crimes. She wonders why a superior scoffed at an officer who worked this theory a few years back. At home, Ellie’s boyfriend Peter, a tabloid reporter desperate for a book idea, nags Ellie for details about the case, which he may be leaking to the paper. Everything goes on hold when a janitor at the club where Chelsea partied on the last night of her life confesses to her murder. But if he’s the killer, then who is narrating a series of chilling scenes detailing plans to murder another young woman with a blond ponytail? When this victim’s body turns up, her hair has been crudely styled to look the way Ellie’s looked in a school photograph, and Ellie’s initials have been carved on the victim’s forehead. Ellie appears a likely target and one of the parties to the case appears a too likely suspect. Then Burke makes good on a solid buildup by pulling off a big surprise.

Burke’s brisk and ultimately suspenseful narrative offers wily and intricate plotting and sharply etched major and minor characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-156102-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2008

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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