A thriller with an endlessly twisty plot and plenty of lingering questions for a third book to answer.

Crimson Park

From the The Park Trilogy series , Vol. 2

A California cold-case division finds that the disappearance of a B-movie director/producer isn’t nearly as straightforward as it initially seems in Booth’s (Olive Park, 2011) sequel.

Fresh off the closing of the infamous Olive Park murders, the three members of Sacramento’s On-Going Investigation Division are ready to move on. But their next case is a surprise, as it involves a recently missing person: James Marston Jr., who runs Molten Pitchers, a production company that specializes in low-budget horror films. IT expert Mallory Dimante, a fan of Marston’s schlock, hopes to be more than just an assistant to detectives Stan Wyld and Jake Steiner on this assignment. She and Jake head to Marston’s house and soon learn that the filmmaker was a bit of a recluse and may have been missing a week or more before anyone noticed. OID eventually finds Marston—or some of him, at least—but some body parts left in a BMW complicate matters, as they belong to someone else. Soon, a recently released ex-con seems a likely suspect. Meanwhile, private investigator Peter Berlin may have found a link between the producer and the previous Olive Park case. At the same time, siblings Michael and Jessie Cooper, two Olive Park survivors, are dodging Child Protective Services as their aunt recovers in the hospital. They’re unaware that a dangerous person is after them for a seemingly innocent item they’re carrying. The novel’s ties to the series’ first book are gleefully intricate, but they also mean that reading the prior installment is a requirement. There’s an abundance of shocking moments, including details surrounding Marston’s will, cryptic notes from PI Berlin, and a witness who saw someone near the producer’s car. The pieces of the puzzle don’t all come together by the end, leaving much of the story unexplained—hopefully to be resolved in the planned trilogy’s conclusion. But this one does reveal a villain or two and puts an OID member’s life on the line. It’s also fun to watch the imperiled Michael try to squeeze money from a production company that’s working on an Olive Park–related project.

A thriller with an endlessly twisty plot and plenty of lingering questions for a third book to answer.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9838329-2-8

Page Count: 386

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2016

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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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