An enjoyable romp involving a shady attorney and the mob that should make readers look forward to the next Jane Larson caper.

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Weave A Murderous Web

A JANE LARSON MYSTERY

A sleuthing lawyer returns to the streets of New York in this mystery of drugs, murder, and financial skullduggery, the sequel to Praise Her, Praise Diana (2014).

A former pro bono attorney who once helped apprehend a serial killer, Jane Larson is now a rising star in corporate litigation at Adams & Ridge, a prominent New York City law firm. She’s still smarting from the abrupt departure of her boyfriend, David Bialo. The intense, time-consuming job is to blame, and she entertains second thoughts about her career. A lull in her workload and a legal assistant’s plea cause Jane to take over a case of unpaid alimony and child support after the plaintiff’s lawyer dies. Gail Hollings, Jane’s new client, is anything but sympathetic, but Gail’s former husband, Larry Hawkins, is worse. A small-time attorney who’s had his law license suspended, Larry may also be a drug dealer. After he’s found dead, a clear-cut professional hit, Jane discovers that Larry had stolen serious money from the mob. But where is it? Most disturbing is that several of Jane’s acquaintances, including David and her best friend, Lee, also knew Larry and maybe were his customers. Finding Larry’s client files becomes a race among Jane, the police, and the killer. Luckily she meets another lawyer, Bryan, who becomes a source of protection, and more. In this second Larson outing, the husband-wife team of Rothman-Hicks and Hicks (Kate and the Kid, 2016, etc.) has again produced a fast-paced, engaging story. The first-person narrative delivers both caustic wit and serious reflection. Jane is complex, nuanced, and utterly believable as a conflicted professional debating her life’s choices (“Yes, I have been known to throw things and come out with witty but rude remarks after a few too many drinks. However, I have never made myself a fool for love, and I didn’t intend to start now”). The writing is generally so smooth and taut that the occasional bumps—hackneyed language and unnecessary foreshadowing—are easily forgiven. The plot takes on perhaps excessive speed at the end; the riveting climactic scene involves a lot of characters appearing rather suddenly and a bit too conveniently. And, to tie things up, the financial machinations could have used more details and clarity as well. Yet, overall, this is a satisfying read.

An enjoyable romp involving a shady attorney and the mob that should make readers look forward to the next Jane Larson caper.

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68046-252-4

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Melange Books

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2016

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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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