You’ve Been Naughty
Dust, by Patricia Cornwell (Putnam, 512 pages, $31): Yet another fever-vision forensic misfire starring far-beyondher-best-by-date medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. A garden-variety serial killer tied to a ho-hum Washington conspiracy, an annoyingly familiar team of uniformly angst-ridden characters, reams of firstperson narrative doodling and gratuitous use of the Newtown school massacre as a dubious plot device — what more could you ask of America’s most unaccountably popular crime writer? Well, other than Jimmy Patterson. King & Maxwell, by David Baldacci (Grand Central, 432 pages, $31): Not even Baldacci’s practised style and team of editors can save this loopy conspiracy concoction, the sixth in an intermittent series starting Secret Service agents-turned-PIs Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. Wanna get a billion euros to Iranian insurgents to buy arms? Send it in cash across Afghanistan with one guy. Sure. Wanna knock off the president? Steal the billion, hire a bunch of mercenaries to run interference and take over a satellite that can hijack the big guy’s car. (And, yes, that is a spoiler, to save you the effort.) Pure drivel. And, of course, tops of the bestseller lists. Sigh. Burnt Black, by Ed Kovacs (Minotaur, 288 pages, $30): Someone is knocking off a thoroughly nasty circle of New Orleans sex-magic practitioners in disgusting fashion. Enter the kick-ass NOPD detective team of Cliff St. James and (no kidding) Honey Baybee to knock heads and finger the unlikely culprit. A lame bid to be whippy and tough-guy smart that not even an overdose of voodoo can cure. Soon, by Charlotte Grimshaw (Spiderline, 312 pages, $20): The adoptive daughter of a physician and his wife, given up by a ravishing, manipulative woman before she married New Zealand’s future prime minister, is the pawn in this odd study of love, deception and devastating secrets. Though spiced by murder and betrayal during a vacation retreat of high-powered folks, it’s actually not much more than a ponderous character study of a uniformly banal and tiresome cast whose overwrought observations and manipulations drown in literary excess.
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