An exciting and unpredictable tale of espionage and adventure in the early 20th century.

The Locket

From the The Rainey Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A debut novel offers political intrigue set within the perilous complexity of the Russian Revolution.

Jeremy Clarke has just returned from France, where he fought as an American soldier in World War I. The son of a wealthy steel magnate, Jeremy now plans to join the family business under the tutelage of his formidable sister, Elizabeth. His plans are temporarily thwarted, however, when a representative from the State Department, Charles Appleton, suddenly arrives unannounced and reveals that Jeremy and Elizabeth’s father, who had vanished in Russia, is still alive. He asks Jeremy to lead a military team—really a small army—into Russia to rescue him and to secure a “package,” the contents of which remain, for the moment, mysterious. Appleton himself is a nebulous fellow, described as a “ghost” with virtually no government file. Jeremy accepts the assignment, and Elizabeth is put in charge of its logistics, which include procuring firearms. While crossing through Romania, Jeremy is taken prisoner and shot while escaping, forcing Elizabeth to take over as commander of the mission. All the while, Russian intelligence tracks the team’s every move, as interested in the package as it is in Elizabeth’s father. Cousins masterfully keeps the story moving at a fast clip, interspersing action at every turn. The inner machinations of the Russian Revolution are numbingly convoluted, and Cousins does a credible job navigating its infinite nuances. The story is driven by the relentless force of Elizabeth’s character, whose motto is: “Observe. Learn. Dominate.” In fact, her bravery—she is only 26 years old— in combat strains credulity: “The rat-tat-tat of the machine gun continued to ring in her ears as she became aware of what was happening around her. She had a job to do and she couldn’t do it lying on her back. She pulled herself up and got back to the gun belt.” But Cousins artfully presents the implausible as easy to digest, a skill that is the hallmark of this relentless thriller. Strictly speaking, this is almost too fantastic a tale to carry the label historical novel, but the author’s research of the period, and of Russia in particular, remains impressive.

An exciting and unpredictable tale of espionage and adventure in the early 20th century.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9948242-1-9

Page Count: 494

Publisher: Corrxan Inc.

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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