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NOLA'S BLACK DOVE

A gutsy, fearless protagonist leads a novel that challenges the absurdity of segregationist laws.

A rebellious New Orleans lawyer in the 1950s works on behalf of a Black couple who want to adopt a biracial child in Martinez’s novel.

Against the sultry, jazzy backdrop of New Orleans, attorney Noel Corbin, also known as Crow, has struggled with sobriety and dedicated his career to helping those who get a raw deal in the city’s corrupt legal system. Crow has been a lawyer for the Cajun mafia, and local opinions of him are mixed. (A Tulane professor tells him, “I’ve heard you’re a free spirit representing various entertainers, gamblers, nonconformists, and the occasional civil rights case using dubious methods.”) A colleague approaches Crow with a perplexing case: An evidently biracial child named Dove is caught in an absurd legal limbo due to the south’s racist laws. Her mother was white, but died soon after childbirth, and Dove’s birth certificate lists the baby as white. A Black couple wishes to adopt Dove but cannot, as the law disallows interracial adoption. The state refuses to change the birth certificate until the presumably Black father comes forward. Crow is troubled by the story and, upon meeting the prospective parents, assures them he has the contacts within (and outside of) government to give them a fighting chance. So far, the state has refused to budge, but Crow pulls from every resource he can think of to find a way for this family to have the happiness they deserve. Martinez’s legal drama, based on a real case in Louisiana, has an imperfect but likable protagonist in Crow, whose Cajun roots and legal career make the story a lively love letter to the local culture and a damning indictment of the era’s racial policies. The author’s wry sensibility regarding the legal system’s corruption is amusing and illuminating, while the absurdity of Dove’s specific case is described in a matter-of-fact, common-sense way. The novel drags somewhat in the middle as the characters await the trial, but the unexpected conclusion feels authentic.

A gutsy, fearless protagonist leads a novel that challenges the absurdity of segregationist laws.

Pub Date: May 15, 2024

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 316

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THINK TWICE

A great premise leads through all the twists you’d expect to a thoroughly muddy final movement.

Sports agent Myron Bolitar meets the Setup Serial Killer, who’s found a highly effective way to keep anyone from connecting the dots.

There’s no arguing with DNA evidence, the ultimate forensic clincher. So when basketball player Greg Downing’s DNA is found on the scene where retired model Cecelia Callister and her son, Clay, were killed, the FBI comes calling on Myron to ask where they can find Greg. Myron’s a reasonable person to ask because Greg was his schoolmate and former client, the man who wooed and won Myron’s girlfriend away from him and made her Emily Downing. Try as he might, though, Myron can’t help much beyond repeating the obvious: Greg died three years ago, and his body was cremated. Since the Feds aren’t about to give up their search, Myron and his partner, financial advisor Win Lockwood, decide they’d better see if they can get ahead of this story by confirming or contradicting the story of Greg’s death. Meantime, a series of interleaved episodes show the killer eliminating a series of primary targets and framing secondary targets so convincingly for the murders, with special thanks to planted DNA, that it never occurs to the police to connect crimes that were so readily solved on their own. Complications arise when Myron’s thrown together with Jeremy Downing, the son he fathered in a pre-wedding tryst with Emily and then passed off as Greg’s, and when the allies of mob boss Joseph “Joey the Toe” Turant, who was locked up four years ago after his DNA-fueled conviction for the murder of Jordan Kravat, decide to lean on Myron to get him to reveal where Greg is.

A great premise leads through all the twists you’d expect to a thoroughly muddy final movement.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9781538756317

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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