Cot racks up many kills: Give him his due, the guy can shoot.

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MEN IN MIAMI HOTELS

Smith’s eighth novel is an offbeat crime story that portrays a gangster with more soul than smarts. 

Cot Sims has returned to his hometown of Key West, and that’s bad news. What alarms the locals is not that Cot is a gangster (he’s one of their own, so they’ll cut him some slack), but that he’s a screw-up, trailing woe. For 18 years, Cot has been a utility guy for Albertson, head of a major drug smuggling operation in Miami. He’s come home to help his mother, Ella; the town won’t let her move back into her house (hurricane damage). Palms need to be greased. Cot’s dilemma is that he’s just blown his last dollar at the track. Then he gets word Albertson wants him to check on a stash of emeralds. Why not buy off the inspector with a gem? It’s twisted logic, inviting Albertson’s retribution, but vintage Cot. Before that can happen, Cot’s oldest friend, CJ, a cross-dressing entertainer guarding the gems, is found dead on the beach, the stones gone. Meanwhile, Cot has resumed his on-again, off-again affair with his moll Marcella, a lawyer defiantly unfaithful to her prosecutor husband, while still finding time to read Virgil, his favorite author, and ruminate on the whole sad mess of life and death; he’s more like one of Graham Greene’s spiritual wrecks than the killer he is. Is he credible? The Virgil is a bit much, but readers will be willing to believe in Cot’s self-destructive spree until the plot becomes altogether too wild and woolly. The introspection outweighs the action, though there’s plenty of that too, including a kidnapping, a scary flight to the Gulf Coast, a showdown with Albertson (the climax in a more restrained novel), a Key West shootout between cops and mobsters, and a corpse-strewn finale in Havana.

Cot racks up many kills: Give him his due, the guy can shoot.

Pub Date: July 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-224727-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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