A crackerjack read from an author who seems to have taken Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing to heart.

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THE LAST GETAWAY

Two getaway drivers from different crews are thrown together when a bank heist goes wrong in Savage’s debut novel.

Richie Glass of Beverly Hills, California, has squandered his money and privilege and is now a “drinker, gambler, antiauthoritarian, [and] smart-ass” in debt to the wrong people. Now, he works as a getaway driver for “a bunch of shit-for-brains bank robbers,” as he puts it. Calvin Russell is a professional carjacker and thief, much to the displeasure of his wife, who’s afraid that the criminal life will affect their young son. The only thing Richie and Calvin have in common—besides being in desperate straits—is that they’re both separately waiting outside the American Federal Bank while, inside, two crews are bent on robbing the place. Eight robbers wind up dead, leaving Richie and Calvin at large, and the people pulling the strings on the labyrinthine plan very much want what they have—which includes not only cash, but also a box of gold and silver coins. As the two drivers get themselves in deeper, their initially antagonistic relationship transforms into something like a friendship, and they’re forced to rely on each other when things break very bad. Overall, Savage delivers a credible and entertaining crime novel. Richie and Calvin’s relationship is sometimes reminiscent of that of hit men Vincent and Jules from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, particularly in a dialogue exchange following a seemingly miraculous escape from certain death. The author has a lean, spare prose style: “Luke Stanton, the middle aged CPA who met a gangster in a bar and thought he could jump ahead by going into business with him, fell to the floor and moaned.” Although the plot about two screw-ups who “only made bad choices” certainly isn’t novel, Savage offers fresh wrinkles on noir tropes and has a welcome, mordant sense of humor. For example, at one point, a character comments to Richie and Calvin about how well an operation is going: “Yeah, well, you haven’t been hanging out with us very long,” Richie responds. “Don’t get too comfortable.”

A crackerjack read from an author who seems to have taken Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing to heart.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 311

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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