Promoting "face-offs" pitting one author against another makes no sense since the goal here is cohesion. That said, this...

FACEOFF

Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, Ian Rankin's John Rebus and Lee Child's Jack Reacher are among the popular sleuths who mix it up in this story anthology from the International Thriller Writers trade group.

Editor Baldacci stages 11 collaborations between leading mystery writers. Some of the character pairings are logical: It's easy enough for Rebus to travel from Edinburgh to London to collaborate with Peter James' Roy Grace on an odd cold case—an ailing survivor of the 1960s gang wars between the Mods and Rockers wants to be tried for a murder he says he committed back then. But a humorous meeting between the eternally wandering Reacher and Joseph Finder's Boston investigator Nick Heller is sheer happenstance. They end up in a Beantown bar seated on opposite sides of a nervous Joe whose life has been threatened by Albanian mobsters. Being that many of these authors have rather similar styles, blending them is less of a challenge than one might think. Ultimately, the appeal of the stories depends on the liveliness of the writing. Among the winners is a pairing of Jeffery Deaver's forensic specialist Lincoln Rhyme (and partner Amelia Sachs) and John Sandford's profiler Lucas Davenport (and Lily Rothenburg) on a case involving a sadistic sex criminal. Another standout brings together lesser-known figures: Raymond Khoury's FBI man Sean Reilly and Linwood Barclay's building contractor Glen Garber (used only once before). The other duos are R.L. Stine (bringing a fictional wild card to the party with Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy) and Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child; M.J. Rose and Lisa Gardner; Steve Martini and Linda Fairstein; Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson; John Lescroart and T. Jefferson Parker; and Steve Berry and James Rollins.

Promoting "face-offs" pitting one author against another makes no sense since the goal here is cohesion. That said, this anthology handles its concept well.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6206-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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