TOURIST SEASON

Satiric mystery adventure about a crazed Miami reporter and an eruption of bloodlust meant to drive off the tourists and developers. It's December and the loyal Shriners have arrived in southern Florida for their annual Miami Beach bash. Theodore Bellamy goes out for a swim with his wife Nell, gets stung by a man-of-war and after two fake "lifeguards" take him off to a hospital, disappears. What happens to B.D. "Sparky" Harper, President of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, is much worse: with a toy rubber alligator stuffed down his throat, his 190 pounds (smeared with suntan oil) are chewed off at the knees and stuffed into a piece of Samsonite luggage, head and all—wearing black wraparound sunglasses. And that's just the start of varied bombings, an aerial assault (dropping rattlesnakes) on a cruise ship, and other horrors perpetrated by the so-called "El Fuego, Comandante, Las Noches de Diciembre" (The Fire, the Nights of December). Brian Keyes, private investigator, is hired to help defend Ernesto Cabal, small-time burglar accused of murdering Harper for his car. Brian's investigation eventually circles back to the Miami Sun—where there are many, many nuts, chief of whom is Skip Wiley, a once-celebrated columnist whose lunatic writings are so bizarre that his own editor has put Wiley and his columns under psychiatric examination. Chief terrorist Wiley at last kidnaps the Orange Bowl Queen and stakes her onto a coral isle that is about to be dynamited for later bulldozing by land developers. What Wiley hates is "an entire generation of blow-dried rapists with phones in their Volvos and five-million-dollar lines of credit and secretaries who give head"—i.e., greedy, blind land-developers. Hiaasen gives an up-to-date sharpness to the old Hecht-MacArthur Front Page cynicism as he slices up limbs for his boiling pot-of-horrors. With this kind of thick-skinned black humor, real feelings would be intrusive—even about ecology and the rape of Florida. Everything is sacrificed to a news-hound humor that is as forced as it is cynical. But if you like your gallows laughs with gall, this could be for you.

Pub Date: March 24, 1986

ISBN: 0446695718

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1986

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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