Overall, a bit more history than mystery. Choose this if you revel in atmosphere.

THE LAST PASSENGER

When a violent murder scene yields no obvious evidence, private detective Charles Lenox must solve one of his most complex cases yet.

In this third prequel to the series (The Vanishing Man, 2019, etc.), Lenox is deep in a chess match with Lord Deere, neighbor and husband to close friend Lady Jane, when Inspector Hemstock from Scotland Yard knocks on his door with news of a murder. Lenox arrives at Paddington Station soon after and meets Joseph Stanley, the stationmaster on duty, as well as the conductor of the train where the body was found. When searching the victim’s pockets reveals no form of identification, Lenox discovers that the only real clue is the lack of evidence: The murderer has gone so far as to remove the label from the victim’s suit jacket. Commissioner Sir Richard Mayne gives Lenox permission to assist with the case—an unpopular decision with most of the force. Eager to prove his value, Lenox and his butler, Graham, go in search of passengers on the train from Manchester to London and scan the papers for word of a missing person. While the Yard suspects gang involvement linked to Manchester, Lenox’s investigation places this murder on a global scale when the first person connected to the victim turns out to be American. Politics across the pond are at a boiling point, with the Abolitionist movement gaining strength and whispers of civil war growing louder by the day. The commentary around this is sobering, as it seems so far-fetched to Lenox that civil war could be a possibility, and yet….As the private detective continues to contemplate motive, he’s often distracted by Lady Jane’s attempts to find him a suitable match and end his reign as most-eligible bachelor. This subplot almost takes the spotlight away from the mystery while it provides satisfying backstory for key relationships in the series. Avid mystery readers will enjoy Lenox’s thorough review of his sleuthing process, not in the sense of “this is how I solved this” but rather “this is how I could have done better.”

Overall, a bit more history than mystery. Choose this if you revel in atmosphere.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31220-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

FLESH AND BLOOD

Happy birthday, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. But no Florida vacation for you and your husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley—not because President Barack Obama is visiting Cambridge, but because a deranged sniper has come to town.

Shortly after everyone’s favorite forensic pathologist (Dust, 2013, etc.) receives a sinister email from a correspondent dubbed Copperhead, she goes outside to find seven pennies—all polished, all turned heads-up, all dated 1981—on her garden wall. Clearly there’s trouble afoot, though she’s not sure what form it will take until five minutes later, when a call from her old friend and former employee Pete Marino, now a detective with the Cambridge Police, summons her to the scene of a shooting. Jamal Nari was a high school music teacher who became a minor celebrity when his name was mistakenly placed on a terrorist watch list; he claimed government persecution, and he ended up having a beer with the president. Now he’s in the news for quite a different reason. Bizarrely, the first tweets announcing his death seem to have preceded it by 45 minutes. And Leo Gantz, a student at Nari’s school, has confessed to his murder, even though he couldn’t possibly have done it. But these complications are only the prelude to a banquet of homicide past and present, as Scarpetta and Marino realize when they link Nari’s murder to a series of killings in New Jersey. For a while, the peripheral presence of the president makes you wonder if this will be the case that finally takes the primary focus off the investigator’s private life. But most of the characters are members of Scarpetta’s entourage, the main conflicts involve infighting among the regulars, and the killer turns out to be a familiar nemesis Scarpetta thought she’d left for dead several installments back. As if.

No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232534-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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