A trio of stories that stand out individually but, like the Glaston Town residents, are much stronger as a whole.



In La Frenière’s debut thriller, the savage murder of a local citizen threatens a close-knit community in a small London village.

Many of Glaston Town’s residents are low-income families living in social housing. But the citizens find themselves united when a nearby area once populated by criminals is redeveloped, consequently flooding Glaston Town with displaced drug dealers, prostitutes, and other lawbreakers. Members of the community band together to clean up their streets, forming a collective when the park, Lavender Gardens, may be destroyed by a developer to make way for a lorry (truck) route. But the biggest menace the citizens face may be from within: One of the housing tenants is killed from multiple stab wounds, a murder that an ensuing investigation shows was likely committed by someone in Glaston Town. La Frenière’s novel is split into three separate parts, each in a distinctive genre. Part I, “The Solitary Kingfisher,” feels like a drama, focusing on the village’s unity as the people overcome fears of criminals’ retribution if they testify against them. “The Rebels,” Part II, becomes a soap opera detailing numerous relationships, particularly romances, such as one revolving around Jack, who has a child with Bee, and his envy over her apparent affection for Mick. Part III, however, paves the way for “Unfinished Business” with the murder, leading to a series of interrogations helmed by DC Sharon Tyllor and a dizzying whodunnit that’s not easy to figure out. There’s a plethora of characters but never more than La Frenière can handle, and they, along with the setting, help interlock the stories to create a cohesive novel. The second section does occasionally get repetitive; certain events, like Catholic Maureen’s father’s disapproval of her courtship with Isak, who’s Jewish, are unnecessarily reiterated, almost as if “The Rebels” were intended to be its own book. However, the author ends on a high note with the murder mystery, which is unquestionably the best of the three sections. It’s rife with motives and endless finger-pointing while recalling the opening tale when the community’s unity is put to the test. By the end, the murder, as well as a few romances, is adequately resolved.

A trio of stories that stand out individually but, like the Glaston Town residents, are much stronger as a whole.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500599485

Page Count: 524

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 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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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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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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