Hogan (The Blood Artists, 1998, etc.) writes with cool precision and a great eye for detail, progressively building...

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PRINCE OF THIEVES

The romance between a bank robber and one of his former hostages threatens both the unity and the safety of his criminal crew.

Pals Doug (“Duggy”) MacRay, Jimmy (“Jem”) Coughlin, Desmond (“Dez”) Eldon, and Freddy (“Gloansy”) Magloan, regular guys from the working-class Boston neighborhood of Charleston, pull off a successful bank robbery in busy Kenmore Square. This is not a onetime thing, but the quartet’s regular business, approached with measured professionalism. Even when unexpected glitches interfere with the well-planned heist, cool heads prevail. Briefly taking pretty young branch manager Claire Keesey hostage, they get away clean, leaving nary a clue behind. (Masks prevent identification.) The twist here is that the robbers are average citizens with family ties and otherwise unremarkable lives, while the FBI special agent who pursues them, Adam Frawley, is the obsessed workaholic. Doug, meanwhile, does the unthinkable: smitten, he locates Claire, pretends to meet her for the first time, and asks her out. Their romance blossoms even as she, completely clueless about Doug’s original interaction with her, remains the main witness to the crime, receiving regular visits from Frawley. Their relationship too takes on a whiff of romance, though less explicitly. Tension arises among the thieving friends over the tandem decisions to sit on their loot and to back away from further bank jobs for a while, although they do hold up a movie theater in nearby Braintree. Frawley’s dogged probing yields some leads; the guys feel the heat and excoriate Claire, oblivious of Doug’s new connection. Matters come to a head when Jem learns of the relationship; he and Frawley squeeze the pair from opposite sides.

Hogan (The Blood Artists, 1998, etc.) writes with cool precision and a great eye for detail, progressively building suspense. Still, too much Doug and Claire and too little of the other thieves unbalances the story and gives it a disappointingly soft center.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-6455-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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