A fast-paced, suspenseful story notwithstanding the somewhat perplexing villainous plan.

RECLAIMING OUR OWN

In Irons’ debut thriller, a former soldier and his fellow Army Rangers face off against a group involved in a string of child abductions.

Brett Moore and his wife, Riley, are ready for a visit with Brett’s brother, Ethan, and Ethan’s family. But their rendezvous at an ordinary American mall takes an unexpected turn when a fire alarm goes off and Brett spots someone running off with his 2-year-old nephew, Cameron. His pursuit becomes a scuffle with multiple assailants, and both Brett and Cameron wind up as abductees. The FBI, anticipating a ransom demand, is on the case, most notably agent Wade Scott, who served in the Army with Brett. Feds learn of other missing children, and Wade has startling information for Riley: Brett’s time with the Rangers included a particularly violent incident. To escape his current captivity, he may have to resort to a darker side of himself and, therefore, not return as the same man Riley married. Meanwhile, Brett befriends Gwen, one of his captors whose young daughter is also a hostage. She can free him of his restraints, but he’ll still have to track down Cameron, with whom the kidnappers have fled. Brett has his Ranger brothers for help against a long list of baddies, some of whom are crooked law enforcers. While at first glance this has a typical kidnapping plot, Irons gradually develops a mystery. For example, there’s much more behind the abductions than ransoms, and not every villain is immediately known. Characters are likewise multidimensional, from sympathetic Gwen to the protagonist, who, as feared, becomes more vicious and bloodthirsty. The author’s succinct, unadorned prose makes for brisk action scenes, which include more than one capable woman, although the Rangers are exclusively male. The story does, however, falter in the villains’ motivations. While their ultimate goal is perfectly clear, some things are harder to understand, such as why they abduct one character’s wife as “leverage” without letting the husband know they’ve taken her or what they want from him. 

A fast-paced, suspenseful story notwithstanding the somewhat perplexing villainous plan. 

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73349-760-2

Page Count: 2019

Publisher: Pants-Free For Life

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2019

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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