There is some cheesy fun to be had here with Prohibition mobsters and politicians, but the plot and prose are pedestrian.

THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS

Lawhon (Eye of the God, 2009) offers a fictional solution to the never-solved disappearance of New York Supreme Court Judge Joseph Crater in 1930, a headline story in its day.          

For 38 years, the judge’s widow, Stella, makes annual visits to toast him at Greenwich Village’s Club Abbey, the mobster-owned speak-easy frequented by Joe Crater in 1930. Dying of cancer in 1969, she invites Jude Simon, the detective assigned the Crater case, to join her and tells him what really happened. Cut to 1930: Joe cuts short his visit to Stella at the couple’s Maine cottage to return to NYC alone after receiving a mysterious phone call. The Craters’ maid, Maria, coincidently married to Jude, is cleaning their Fifth Avenue apartment when she walks in on Joe’s mistress, a showgirl everyone calls Ritzi, naked in the conjugal bed. Joe warns Maria to keep her mouth shut before he and Ritzi head out. After having dinner with pal William Klein, Joe and Ritzi end up in a Coney Island hotel. When there’s a knock on the door, Ritzi hides in a cabinet under the bathroom sink while two men savagely beat Joe before taking him away. She and Klein claim they spent the night together to give each other alibis when questioned. Stella returns to NYC briefly and finds a stash of money and documents that Maria knows Jude, of all people, placed in the Craters’ bureau (but he doesn’t know she knows). Stella hides from the grand jury when it convenes. Ritzi, newly pregnant, tries to hide from the mobster who controls her. Maria and Jude hide their secrets from each other. An author’s note at the end explains who was real and who is fictional in the labyrinth of what ifs, but only Ritzi’s story (she was real, but her storyline is imagined) carries any dramatic weight.

There is some cheesy fun to be had here with Prohibition mobsters and politicians, but the plot and prose are pedestrian.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-53762-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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