Heady, madcap fun in a sequel that surpasses the original.

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ED SAVAGE AND THE DECIMATED SAVAGE DEMISE

From the Savage Saga series , Vol. 2

In the second installment of Roberts’ (Ed Savage and the Savage Murders Trilogy, 2016) thriller series, the Savage family confronts kidnappers and salacious rumors.

After the events of the last novel, wealthy intelligence operative and TV star Ed Savage and his family members are recovering from the loss of loved ones. One of those lost is Cara Vanderran Savage, Ed’s sister-in-law; her sister, Zolie Vanderran, seeks closure at the Vreeland Hills Sanatorium, where she hopes to speak to one of the inmates responsible for Cara’s death. Unfortunately, Dr. Stanley Sinardi works there, and he has a grudge against Ed for stealing the spotlight on Stan’s reality TV series, Phantom Finders, and later pitting his own show against Stan’s. Later, when Ed and other Savages go looking for Zolie, they face not only Stan, but another deadly doctor who took her captive. Ed’s troubles only escalate after someone abducts two of his nieces; an interviewer blindsides him with an allegation of “sick sex games”; and an old case of his resurfaces following the discovery of warheads from a missing submarine. Meanwhile, Ed’s wife, Marlo, who’s preparing to be on the reality show Tycoon Wives, gets distressing news that could destroy the couple’s marriage, and a subsea earthquake triggers a tsunami that puts multiple Savage family members in peril. Clearly, Roberts packs his frenzied novel with numerous subplots and characters. His ability to manage them all is most impressive, and he makes the relationships between the many players abundantly clear. (That said, it is recommended that readers first tackle Volume 1 in order to understand relevant references.) Likewise, the author bounces around various plotlines with ease; for instance, he effectively establishes the creepiness of the hospital before Ed and company stroll its corridors. The story dabbles in multiple genres, including action and horror, and the family drama could have filled a book on its own. The end result is a dizzying ride, and readers will doubtlessly anticipate the Savages’ third go-round.

Heady, madcap fun in a sequel that surpasses the original.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-90388-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Savage Roberts Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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