A sufficient legal tale augmented by a meticulous examination of the accused.



In this thriller, a Texas lawyer comes to the aid of a war veteran who’s on trial for murder.

Reporter David Lewis, a double amputee since a street battle in Iraq, is pleasantly surprised by his run-in with Cordelia Lehrer. The two, who’d had a one-night stand in college, quickly reignite their intimacy. But there may be more to the reunion: Cordelia invites David to meet her father, Kingston, the prosperous owner of KL Media Group and its 50 daily newspapers. It’s apparent Daddy wants an heir, callously referring to his other married daughters as “barren.” David certainly fits the bill, with expertise in the operation of newspapers, and he and Cordelia are soon married and expecting. Just a couple of years later, however, David needs an attorney. He’s shot someone dead, or at least he thinks so, because he blacked out before seeing the lifeless body. He hires Donnie Ray Cuinn, and shortly thereafter, cops, doubting David’s claim of an accident, charge him with murder. Aware that the district attorney has David’s reputed motive, Donnie hopes a jury will believe the veteran truly suffers from PTSD. Though this is Donnie’s fourth appearance in Taylor’s (The Monkey House, 2015, etc.) series, he’s only in the novel’s latter half. The first half is David’s engrossing first-person narration, as he’s slowly drawn into the Lehrer family. There’s mystery even before the murder, like Cordelia’s agenda: is the marriage for love or merely a business deal to produce an heir? Much of Donnie’s part involves questioning witnesses on the stand during the trial. The story turns into a courtroom drama, less gripping than David’s account but sporting rapid-fire dialogue exchanges from both the prosecutor’s side and Donnie’s. And while there’s little room for exploring Donnie’s personal life, his prior relationship with the DA makes for tense scenes in court. Taylor stamps his novel with a doozy of an ending.

A sufficient legal tale augmented by a meticulous examination of the accused.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9894707-3-5

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Katherine Brown Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2017

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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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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