A frothy adventure with a cache of inventive weaponry and a final surprise.

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MURDER, CURLERS & KEGS

A hair salon owner finds herself in the middle of another murder mystery, much to the dismay of her favorite police detective.

Valentine Beaumont, owner of Beaumont’s beauty parlor, is having a very bad morning. First, she poked her eye with her mascara wand. Then she walked out on her porch only to discover that somebody had left an upright sex toy there with a perm rod wrapped around it—an ominous reference to the time she caught a murderer by using a similar implement to injure his “family jewels.” It’s clear that the most infamous stylist in Rueland, Massachusetts, is being stalked. Still, she shows up to help her friend Jimmy O’Shea get ready for the grand opening of his new pub, the Wee Irish Dude. (Jimmy was a California surfer before moving to Rueland years ago.) As Valentine and the entertainingly offbeat staff at Beaumont’s begin to clean and set up, a large beer keg comes crashing down the pub’s staircase. It breaks open, revealing the dead body of Jimmy’s cousin, Dooley. McFarlane’s (Murders, Curlers & Cruises, 2018, etc.) fourth volume of her madcap mystery series is off to a rousing start as the police arrive, headed by Michael Romero, a man that Valentine calls a “extremely sexy, ruggedly handsome, tough police detective.” He brings more bad news: Ziggy Stoaks, the killer taken down by Valentine’s perm rod, has escaped from prison. This beach-read lark is part cozy mystery and part farce, as when Valentine defends herself by squirting hand lotion into the mouth of a gun-wielding assailant. The feisty, pleasantly sarcastic heroine is an able narrator who can turn just about anything in her bag of beauty supplies into an imaginative weapon—even if it’s just a rubber band. Well-paced action scenes and two romantic suitors add to the fun. Of the latter, Romero has the inside track, but McFarlane makes Jock, an Argentinian hair stylist, very tempting.

A frothy adventure with a cache of inventive weaponry and a final surprise.

Pub Date: July 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9953076-7-4

Page Count: 196

Publisher: ParadiseDeer Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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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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