An exceptional story that derives its frights from both supernatural and corporeal aspects.

FORGOTTEN MEN

THE BAYOU HAUNTINGS

From the Bayou Hauntings series , Vol. 2

A deputy’s personal investigation into a reputedly haunted building in Louisiana links a string of unexplained and seemingly unrelated deaths in this suspense sequel.

The most terrifying experience in Landry Drake’s life was when, dared by his older brother, he spent an hour in the Asylum. The 200-year-old structure, residing in the ghost town of Victory, Louisiana, is known as the state’s “most haunted building.” Beginning as a hotel in the 1800s, the edifice became a maximum security prison at the turn of the century and housed violent, mentally unstable inmates. The locals dubbed it the Asylum, which was eventually shut down due to widespread abuse of prisoners by vicious guards. Since then, rumors have claimed that the dead inmates haunt the place. Twelve years after his ordeal, 20-something Landry, now an Iberia Parish deputy sheriff, is still disturbed by the voices he’s certain he heard back then. He researches the Asylum and learns 13 unsolved murders have occurred there in the last three decades. Landry later teams up with Cate Adams, daughter of the building’s current owner, and soon uncovers a connection among the killings as well as other puzzling local deaths. He struggles to unravel the mystery despite the sheriff’s orders to stop spending his night shifts on amateur sleuthing. Meanwhile, two brutal thugs and longtime prison escapees Mack Thorn and Sam Gold are regular squatters at the Asylum. Their lives ultimately intersect with Landry’s and Cate’s, precipitating a savage encounter in a building that’s very likely already inhabited by ghosts. Notwithstanding its haunted-house scenario, Thompson’s (Callie, 2017, etc.) novel is more mystery than horror. Supernatural elements, for one, are ambiguous: The voices Landry (and others) has heard in the Asylum could easily belong to humans who are very much alive. Moreover, the introduction of Mack and Sam not only provides the story with an unmistakable menace, but also hints at the possibility that the two men are the haunters. The author sets an unnerving tone with straightforward but engrossing writing. The history of the Asylum, for example, is an extended segment that never loiters thanks to meticulous and harrowing details of the guards’ mistreatment of inmates. Similarly, the story’s atmosphere is often ominous, even when outside Asylum walls: “Dense, low-hanging storm clouds rolled in fast. Summer storms popped up in the humid evenings, and a rumble of thunder gave a preview of what to expect.” Landry and Cate’s immediate attraction doesn’t spark much romance but does pair the protagonist with a much-needed ally. Yet it’s the eccentric supporting characters who truly add depth to the narrative. Standouts include Cate’s father, whose purchase of cheap, unwanted properties has netted him 200 parcels in Louisiana, and a spooky, immoral preacher who has no qualms about trespassing. Much of the final act unfolds inside the Asylum, clarifying the mysteries while putting both Landry and Cate in peril. There are also a couple of surprises that are quite effective. These are trailed by an explanation and wrap-up that’s largely unnecessary (Thompson’s plot is coherent throughout) but fortunately not prolonged.

An exceptional story that derives its frights from both supernatural and corporeal aspects.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9979129-8-2

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Asendente Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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