A sensitively intelligent dramatization of the abuse of power.

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BAKERSFIELD BOYS CLUB

A mother desperately tries to protect her teenage son from a powerful ring of pedophiles. 

Suzanne Ricci discovers her next-door neighbor, Reggie Roman, dead in his home, brutally beaten. The same day, her 14-year-old son, Danny, is arrested for driving Reggie’s Mercedes with his friend Reno, well-known to law enforcement as a prostitute. The police briefly suspect Danny, who happened to spend the evening at Reggie’s home, only to find him dead on his way out the next morning. Defending himself against suspicions of murder, Danny discloses a clandestine life that shocks his unwitting mother. The boy abandons his friends, drops out of art classes, and seems numbed to the world. As a troubled youth coming to grips with his gay identity, Danny befriends Reggie, notorious for the sex-and-drug-besotted parties he hosts in his home, often for influential men. Now caught up in this sordid world, depicted chillingly by Da Vigo (Thread of Gold, 2017), Danny struggles to extricate himself from it. And after his best friend, Grace Stannard, is raped and murdered by a group of pederasts known as The Club, Suzanne becomes committed to bringing them to justice. The group is formidable, however, made up of men with high-ranking positions at the police department, the district attorney’s office, and in the media. But because she fears for her son’s life, she’s left with no choice. The author masterfully builds an atmosphere of darkness and dread. Both Danny and Suzanne are mesmerizingly layered characters. Suzanne is wounded after the sudden death of an unfaithful husband, and Danny’s traumatic encounters with The Club are all the more affecting juxtaposed with the inchoate fragility of his sexual identity. At various points, the novel’s gruesome content is hard to digest, especially those scenes that describe the abuse of children; however, Da Vigo’s treatment of that content is dramatically vivid without a hint of sensationalized license. This is a beautifully crafted and thrilling novel, unflinchingly realistic without sacrificing hope. 

A sensitively intelligent dramatization of the abuse of power. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 327

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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