Crisply written, skillfully paced, with respectful attention to details about explosives and serial-killer tracking...

DEVIANT WAYS

Routine, by-the-numbers psychokiller tale set in Massachusetts’s tony Marblehead beach town and the New England sticks that delivers all the nail-biting suspense the genre requires.

Police Detective Jack Casey is a former FBI profiler who crashed and burned after he was tied up and forced to watch his wife massacred by Miles “the Sandman” Hamilton, an impossibly brilliant serial slasher, as well as a supremely skilled hacker—computer, cell-phone, hidden-TV-camera, you name it. Casey lives quietly now, spending his free time working out and having great sex with his impossibly gorgeous girlfriend, bicoastal celebrity photographer Taylor Branch. Taylor has an impossibly cute niece Rachel staying at Taylor's impossibly cool Marblehead beach house. Alas, Casey goes out on a 911 call about a robbery and finds the husband alive and tied up in his bed, with the gory remains of his family against the bedroom wall. Just as Casey is about to ask the man who did the deed, the house blows up, incinerating the husband, the victims, and two cops. Casey barely escapes and, a month later, when another bloody tableau fails to detonate, he gets a call from the Sandman, who threatens to go after Taylor and Rachel if Casey doesn't drop his investigation. Naturally, Casey refuses to let the creep who killed his wife continue his homicidal rampage and seeks help from Malcom Fletcher, a retired, possibly demented FBI profiler who demonstrates high-tech talents not unlike the Sandman’s, and seems to know more than he’s telling. Meanwhile, FBI agents in Los Angeles discover their computer has been hacked, and someone has poked around in supersecret files of a supersecret, not-completely-successful psychological research project that had tried to nip serial killers in the bud. Could the Sandman be a reject from this project who’s now avenging himself on his tormentors?

Crisply written, skillfully paced, with respectful attention to details about explosives and serial-killer tracking techniques: the pages turn in spite of a tiresomely formulaic plot.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-671-04059-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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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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Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable...

TOUGH CUSTOMER

A manhunt for a homicidal stalker reunites an ex-cop and his long-lost daughter, in Brown’s latest thriller (Rainwater, 2009).

Private eye Dodge Hanley, who left the Houston police for Atlanta years before, is summoned back to Texas by his long-ago flame Caroline King, now a successful realtor. Caroline wants Dodge, who once rescued her from an abusive fiancé, to lend his sleuthing skills to find Oren Starks, the man who burst in on her daughter Berry and Berry’s co-worker Ben at Caroline’s lake house near the small town of Merritt. Shooting and wounding Ben, Oren fled, but not before vowing to murder Berry. A dismissed co-worker at the Houston marketing firm where Berry and Ben work, Oren was unhinged by his thwarted efforts to woo Berry and another colleague, Sally Buckland. Dodge (who, unbeknownst to Berry, is her father) and local deputy Ski Nyland join forces to track Oren down. Ski’s call to Sally finds her strangely reluctant to corroborate her previous claim of sexual harassment against Oren, perhaps because Oren has a gun to her head during the call. Despite a leg injury sustained at Caroline’s house, Oren confounds pursuers by somehow managing to be in several places at once. He breaks into a Merritt motel room, fatally wounding a teenager who surprises him there. Sally’s body is found hanging in the closet of Berry’s Houston home. Oren takes an elderly couple hostage in a campground, and kills again before disappearing into the Big Thicket, a treacherous, swampy national park. Brown’s trademark romance spiced with raunch serves her well as she orchestrates two parallel lust stories: Caroline’s and Dodge’s passionate but brief encounter in 1978, and the present frisson between Berry and Dodge’s younger doppelgänger, hard-boiled cop Ski. The narrative, slowed by too many talky scenes and descriptive filler, eventually rewards readers’ patience with a bang-up surprise ending. 

Brown’s ear for Texas dialect and her earnest characterizations of cynical lawmen with stout hearts make for an enjoyable summer read.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6310-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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