Perceptive and droll; Moore paints his story in dark but striking colors.

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Interruption of the Cocktail Hour

A WASHINGTON YARN OF ART, MURDER, AND THE ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION OF THE PRESIDENT

Moore’s first foray into fiction (The Powers of Preservation, 1998) is a black comedy about a struggling artist who finds a killing device that might prove beneficial to his career.

Pete Preston is an ambitious painter but not a successful one. He makes ends meet by taking odd jobs, until the day he happens upon a calculator that, by simply pressing 5, kills whatever, or whomever, it’s pointed at with a heart attack. Pete dispatches a few unwholesome characters, at least one in self-defense, but it isn’t long before those haughty art critics, who so often denounce Pete’s work for their own agendas (like a promotion), become targets. The novel, despite featuring a protagonist who ultimately (and correctly) defines himself as a serial killer, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach. The comedy is decidedly dark—there’s a joke about a school where only the older students are permitted to carry guns—but many scenes are undeniably humorous, even when they stray from the main plot, like the story of the local “Crazy Couple” and their bumbling attempts to kill one another or Pete and his pals’ cross-dressing for performance art back in the ’70s. Moore doesn’t handle the notion of murder with nonchalance: Pete often regrets the killings, regardless of how horrible the person may have been, and after a bookie witnesses Pete using his calculator, the painter doesn’t take lightly an offer of millions to assassinate the president. The story is also quite profound, as the method of offing someone is so easy (and easy to pass off as accidental) that it focuses almost solely on the consequences of murder; Pete spends more time debating whether he made the right choice than worrying about being caught. There is, however, enough death to catch police attention, which adds dashes of suspense to the narrative. The author, an architect and painter, lovingly portrays both professions: an artist who’s genuinely hurt by criticisms of his work and who enjoys pretending to be an architect at a cocktail party. The ending, even if readers can guess it, is wickedly funny.

Perceptive and droll; Moore paints his story in dark but striking colors.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2014

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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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