The same mixture as before: a sweeping, overplotted, overscaled account of high crimes, misdemeanors, and violent coverups...


An Army mortician teams up, sort of, with a military artist who just won’t die to thwart an obscenely shape-shifting conspiracy.

Everybody has some God-given talent. Jim Zigarowski’s is to make the dead look presentable for the families who come to view their remains at the Dover Air Force Base. When the bombing of a military plane from Alaska kills all seven aboard, Zig’s attention is drawn not to the headline victim—Librarian of Congress Nelson Rookstool, an old friend of President Orson Wallace—but to Sgt. Nola Brown, an Army artist-in-residence who years ago saved the life of 12-year-old Maggie Zigarowski, though she couldn’t prevent Zig’s daughter from dying scarcely a year later. Illegally grabbing the job of preparing Nola’s remains from the mortician assigned to the case, Zig quickly discovers that the remains aren’t Nola’s after all. His joy that Nola is still alive is tempered by the sobering realization that an awful lot of people have conspired to cover up this happy news by signing off on her death. Inevitably, the living Nola returns, determined to get to the bottom of the bombing. By that time, veteran suspenser Meltzer (co-author: The House of Secrets, 2016, etc.) has begun a series of harrowing flashbacks to Nola’s childhood and adolescence that firmly establish her as the most damaged heroine in the genre since Lisbeth Salander. Uncovering traces of a sinister scheme called Operation Bluebook, Zig and Nola work—often at cross-purposes, though not when they need to save each other’s lives—through a web of corrupt procurers, creatively armed killers, and board-certified magicians to trace and neutralize Bluebook before its resourceful conspirators can kill Zig and finish the job they bungled on Nola.

The same mixture as before: a sweeping, overplotted, overscaled account of high crimes, misdemeanors, and violent coverups and reprisals. But those flashbacks into the heroine’s traumatic early years, although they seriously disrupt the momentum of the blood-and-thunder present-day plot, sting long after the details of that plot have faded.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4555-5952-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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. 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...

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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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