Pleasantly fast and polished, in the John Sandford style. More Rain predicted.

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RAIN FALL

Rich atmosphere and believable politics in a distinguished debut thriller.

John Rain is a half-American, half-Japanese hit-man for unseen masters in Tokyo, where he passes for a native, though he knows he’ll never completely belong. He has gotten rich by providing elegant eliminations of problem individuals for well-heeled, anonymous purchasers of his “consulting” service. The cold-bloodedness required for this chilling career comes from some very nasty experiences as a member of an American dirty-deeds outfit in Vietnam and from his childhood as an outsider, first in his father’s Japan and then in his mother’s America. Not that he’s a complete monster—he won’t kill children or women—but he’s not particularly interested in the why or who of his contractors or victims. But then the technically satisfying murder (by remote control fritzing of his pacemaker in a subway car) of a ruling party bureaucrat begins to undo Rain’s cool. First, the still-warm corpse of the bureaucrat gets frisked by a Westerner who pops up in the crowded subway car, and then it seems that Rain himself may be the object of a search. Working with his techie pal Harry, Rain follows threads leading to beautiful pianist Midori Kawamura, daughter of the guy he just killed. Sucked in both by her looks and her Julliard-honed jazz skills, Rain befriends Midori, who has no idea he did in Dad but who begins to wonder just what he’s about when he bursts into her building to rescue her from intruders when he should have been on his way home. The intruders, the Westerner on the subway, and many others are all after a disk full of political corruption revelations that Midori’s father was about to pass to the press just before Rain pulled the switch on his ticker. Rain’s black belt comes in exceedingly handy many times before the disk slots into the proper drive.

Pleasantly fast and polished, in the John Sandford style. More Rain predicted.

Pub Date: July 22, 2002

ISBN: 0-399-14910-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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