An unequivocal series highlight with a laudable blend of action and mystery.

JACK FROST

From the A Detective Jack Stratton Novel series

Investigating a reality TV show that’s facing threats and accidents, PI Jack Stratton finds himself snowbound with a murderer in the continuation of Greyson’s (The Girl Who Lived, 2017, etc.) thriller series.

Ex-cop Jack and his fiancee, Alice, jump at the chance to do investigative work for McAlister Insurance. The undercover gig involves the reality competition show Planet Survival, which lost a crew member in an avalanche last year and more recently received a note threatening other crew members’ lives. There’s no discernible connection between these events, but the insurance company wants Jack and Alice to ensure they’re unrelated. Producer Leah Coleman, however, wants Jack to travel solo to Mount Minuit with the cast and crew. Alice isn’t happy about Jack going alone, but she can look into the alleged accident at home, and there’s no Wi-Fi or cell service on the mountain. Moreover, she has a lot on her plate. She asks Kiku Inuzuka, a dangerous but dependable female yakuza (Japanese mobster), to help track down the man. On Mount Minuit, Jack poses as the crew’s gofer, enduring bully/cameraman Ollie and the show’s insufferable host, Gavin Maddox. But a menace looms: someone is leaving more threatening messages and sabotaging gear. Aggravating their troubles is a blizzard, which makes it exceedingly difficult to search for the people who go missing, some of whom later turn up dead. While Greyson’s preceding installment was a breezy mystery, this one significantly cranks up the action. The crew, for one, has avalanche charges, which can control when a potential snowslide will occur and likewise pose a constant threat with a killer on the loose. The author fills the pages with atmosphere befitting the turbulent blizzard, including Jack discovering unknown footprints in the snow or short-roped with contestant Chiri during a particularly furious wind. At the same time, there’s a sturdy whodunit running throughout: as Jack struggles to keep himself and others alive, Alice is unraveling the bizarre circumstances of a crew member’s avalanche death. She inches closer to a killer’s identity, which is not immediately revealed to readers. Adding to the already dense mystery is Kiku’s advancing manhunt. The ragtag crew generates myriad murder suspects but also provides fodder for a biting critique of reality shows. The magic of television, for example, presents one individual as wholly capable when the opposite is true. And while Jack, as gofer, incurs blame for most on-set mishaps, the former military man could theoretically be a contestant, using his skills to survive severe weather and a nameless murderer. There are shades of humor, though it’s mostly dark. Perhaps the best moment is Jack assuring everyone he’s not the killer by pointing out that he could—but hasn’t—killed every person in the room.

An unequivocal series highlight with a laudable blend of action and mystery.

Pub Date: April 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68399-083-3

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Greyson Media Associates

Review Posted Online: April 28, 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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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