CODE OF DARKNESS

A superhuman capable of extreme feats of speed and strength must escape the NSA and his demons.

Rage; the very word conjures a directed fury—animate, precise, irate. To the low-level criminals and hoodlums of Chicago, Rage is a very real person, distributing justice on the nighttime streets with extreme vengeance. One of these acts captures the attention of widowed Chicago police officer Larry Parker, but Rage disappears before Parker can speak with him. Several weeks later, it’s Parker’s extreme misfortune to run into the seemingly bionic vigilante a second time, and Parker is drawn into a web of murders, cover-ups and national security secrets for which his police department training could never have prepared him. A secret even to most in the intelligence community, Rage is a product of a government experiment to reprogram the human genome and create a being who can do the impossible—leap buildings, throw vehicles, knock down walls with a single punch. Now, almost 30 years after this experiment began, the government wants their test subjects back, and an elite SWAT team has been deployed to capture Rage—but little does he know that there are two others like him. One is rogue, living as an assassin for hire, and the other is a loyal solider of the federal government; it’s this second soldier whom Rage, Parker and their cohorts must defeat to keep their freedom. The action traverses much of the Eastern United States, and, all too often, much of the storyline; the book features numerous taut combat and chase sequences, but ultimately lacks emotional depth. Several scenes of dreamlike intimacy are attempted between Rage and his beautiful female acquaintance, but the interactions and dialogue feel contrived and one-dimensional. Similarly, Rage often wrestles with his conscience, pondering whether his numerous killings are borne out of justice or bloodlust, but these moments never go beyond the surface and the philosophical issue is never satisfactorily resolved. Comparisons to Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy (and many superheroes in American popular culture, for that matter) are certainly warranted. Readers will find that those books offer deeper looks into the world of an alienated, weaponized human being. A sharp thriller in many aspects, but lacks the robustness and depth of many classics of the genre.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1257802630

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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