A macabre, otherworldly tale of a young woman "swallowed whole and alive by the horror that refused to be sated."

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NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE

British author Nevill (House of Small Shadows, 2014, etc.) out-Kings Stephen in this intense tale of séances, houses of ill repute and pervert convicts captured by The Other.

Stephanie Booth is "a minimum wage temp, who couldn’t afford to go to university." She rents a room at 82 Edgehill Rd. in Birmingham—a dwelling once occupied by The Friends of Light spiritualist group and then by the Bennets, a midcentury father/son pair of pimps and murderers. The current landlord, Knacker McGuire, "bloodless face…slit-eyed sneer," gives Stephanie a room which "looked like the scene of a potential suicide following an occupant’s long period of depression, isolation and poverty." But it's Knacker’s cousin, Fergal, "haggard and feral," whose perversions reveal to Stephanie that she resides in a house of horrors, one inhabited by the spirit of Black Maggie, a creature rooted in ancient fertility rites. Stephanie’s an empathetic protagonist, killing her way out of peril, but Nevill’s most vivid character is Knacker, right down to his Brummie ("bovver wiv all vat") accent. Stephanie, free of the Edgehill horror, grows rich on book and film rights, reinventing herself as Amber Hare. However, even after settling in southern England, Stephanie’s nightmarish apparitions convince her that "the poor souls...had followed her from their wretched graves in Edgehill Road." Overwhelmed by "fear, regret, anxiety, hope and despair," Stephanie/Amber learns "the Bennets and Fergal [were] mere tools, homicidal tools…for something that found them useful." Tensions are high, the settings are ominous, and Nevill even offers cogent social observations, such as Stephanie learning that "everything she took for granted…like cooperation and manners and civility and privacy and laws," is lost when notoriety arrives.

A macabre, otherworldly tale of a young woman "swallowed whole and alive by the horror that refused to be sated."

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04128-9

Page Count: 640

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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