“Kingdom of Bones”, “The Hacienda”, “Blood Will Tell” and more

“Kingdom of Bones”, by James Rollins (William Morrow)

Bone Kingdom (William Morrow)

The Congolese are attacked by a disease which renders them catatonic before killing them. Animals and insects that are twice their normal size are violent predators. Even the foliage seems to prey on humans. The Congo is racing. What to do? Well, bring Sigma Force, of course.

The intrepid bio-warriors of Sigma Force launch a two-pronged search to find the source of the phenomenon before it spreads across Africa and beyond. First, they must find the Kingdom of Bones, which the Congolese believe is the epicenter of the disaster. At the same time, they must rescue four researchers who have been kidnapped by the selfish CEO of a mining company who started the anomalies. The four – one is actually an undercover member of Sigma – are imprisoned in a guarded compound in the middle of the jungle.

Commander Gray Pierce and his Sigma Force, including Kane, the prodigy dog, are up for the challenge as they traverse the jungle and battle high-tech guards. Against all odds, the men are faced with unlikely tasks in their attempt to save the world from biological disaster.

(The most intrepid of them is Kane. Readers will mostly shoot for him.)

The Hacienda (Berkley)
The Hacienda (Berkley)

“The Hacienda” by Isabel Canas (Berkley)

If these walls could talk…. Good, these the walls speak. In fact, the whole house is talking, shouting and threatening, and it’s not pretty.

In 1823, following the death of her father in the aftermath of the bloody Mexican War of Independence, Beatriz married Rudolfo, owner of a large hacienda and maguey plantation in the countryside. Rudolfo is a fluke.

After living with dismissive parents, Beatriz wants nothing more than safety and a home of her own. On her first night at the hacienda, however, she sees red eyes in the dark and hears strange noises that make her nervous. After Rudolfo leaves her to return to the capital, Beatriz is terrorized by slamming doors in the night, strange voices and hands trying to push her down the stairs. She begins to believe that the house is trying to kill her.

Beatriz cannot turn to her unwelcoming sister-in-law, Juana, who refuses to live in the house. Or the housekeeper, with her weeds and the strange marks she makes on the floor. Only Paloma, the governess’s daughter, and Andres, a priest, seem friendly. Andres grew up on the plantation and understands the house and its moods. He believes the evil spirit behind the deadly attacks is Rudolfo’s first wife, whose empty grave is in the family cemetery. It was his eyes that Beatriz saw on her first night in the house. Only Andres, with his own creepy secret, can help. He knows witchcraft.

As Beatriz uncovers truths about her husband and his family, the hacienda tries harder and harder to destroy her until she and Andres come face to face in a blood-chilling showdown. Enough to make you take a second look at your home.

Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez (William Morrow)
Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez (William Morrow)

“The Blood Will Tell” by Heather Chavez (William Morrow)

Since they were girls, Frankie Barrera has been cleaning up her sister Izzy’s messes. Now, Izzy has taken Frankie’s truck without permission, and Frankie is accused of kidnapping a 17-year-old girl. What complicates matters is that the young girl is the sister of Rachel, a friend of Izzy’s who disappeared five years earlier, at a party where Izzy got drunk.

Izzy doesn’t remember what happened at the time, only that she called her sister to pick her up because she was too drunk to drive. Izzy insists she met Rachel with her car, but Frankie can only find the remains of a deer. She made the decision to stop looking and take Izzy to the hospital, where the girl barely survived alcohol poisoning. Later, Frankie discovered hair and blood on the car Izzy was driving, and each sister suspects that Izzy may have killed Rachel.

Five years later, Rachel’s body is found. She was stabbed to death. Frankie sets out to find out what happened at the party and prove Izzy isn’t guilty of the murder.

“Blood Will Tell” is a murder mystery as well as the story of two sisters. Izzy tries to clean up her act and stand up, while Frankie tries too hard to protect her. This leads to an inevitable clash that puts them both in danger.

City on Fire (William Morrow)
City on Fire (William Morrow)

“City on Fire” by Don Winslow (William Morrow)

The editor of “City on Fire” likes to claim that this is a modern-day “Iliad”, and in many ways it is. Two mafia gangs, the Irish and the Italians, share the crime in Providence. This decision to stay out of each other’s territory brought peace to the gangs for many years. The two groups even socialize together – that is, until an Irish son goes after the beautiful girlfriend of an Italian mobster. What could have been settled amicably spirals out of control and leads to a bitter war as the two gangs attempt to destroy each other.

At the heart of the war is Danny Ryan. His father led the Irish gang until he was dishonored. Now Danny is married to the daughter of the new Irish don. He wants out, but against his will, he becomes the leader of the group. Trapped, he leads the violence against the Italians – and against the foreigners who want to take over Providence after the two gangs destroy each other.

Written by Don Winslow, author of more than 20 bestsellers, “City on Fire” is superb. Danny is an endearing character, a young man caught up in an undesirable fate. But the zinger is the dialogue. It rings so true you might think you’re listening to an Italian restaurant or an Irish bar in an ethnic neighborhood of Providence.

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Alycia R. Lindley