Erickson (Death by Eggnog, 2017, etc.) kicks off a new series that combines irresistibly cute pets, a tangled plot, and a...

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THE POMERANIAN ALWAYS BARKS TWICE

A family dedicated to animal rescue find themselves involved in murder.

On a mission to pick up Stewie, an elderly Pomeranian whose even older owner is heading for an extended care facility, Liz Denton and her son, Ben, spot a van belonging to another rescue group run by Courtney Shaw, who’s not above making a buck by charging high fees for pets. Stewie’s owner, Timothy Fuller, who’d called Liz to find his beloved dog a great home, orders his nurse to take him indoors, leaving Liz and Courtney to negotiate in front of Tim Jr. and his wife, who just want the dog gone. When the nurse suggests that one of them come back later for Stewie, Liz follows Courtney home, leaving Ben to make the acquaintance of Selena Shriver, the bikini-clad neighbor, until she returns. Courtney finally agrees to let Liz take Stewie, but when she returns for him and Ben, she learns that Timothy’s dead and Ben’s been arrested for his murder. Since he’d never met Timothy before, Ben seems an unlikely suspect. But the police have a witness who saw Ben enter the house, and there’s blood on his shirt, which sports his name in large letters. Ignoring her veterinarian husband, Manny, who advises her to trust in the law, Liz starts sleuthing on her own. The rumor that Timothy had a large sum of money hidden away on his property generates more suspects who might have stabbed him for refusing to disclose his hidden stash. Liz’s daughter, Amelia, a college student, has been acting strangely recently, but her secret proves surprisingly helpful in proving Ben innocent.

Erickson (Death by Eggnog, 2017, etc.) kicks off a new series that combines irresistibly cute pets, a tangled plot, and a pretty obvious killer.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4967-1992-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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