Intelligent and artfully crafted historical fiction about a religious relic.



From the The Long-Hair Saga series , Vol. 2

In this thriller, set in fifth-century Rome, rivals race to possess Christ’s crown of thorns.

When Roman Gen. Flavius Aetius dies, his son, Gaudentius, discovers the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the day he was crucified. Gaudentius’ mother fears that the relic might fall into Emperor Valentinian’s hands, and so she entrusts it to Senator Felix with the hope that he’ll find a way to smuggle it out of Rome to Constantinople to present it to Patriarch Anatolius. But Senator Felix is murdered, and so the perilous task falls to his daughter, Arria, and her husband, the Frank Noble Garic. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who know of the crown’s existence; Marcella, Arria’s half sister, and Drusus, a military commander, pursue it as well. Drusus was once Arria’s husband until he nearly died in battle, and Marcella is resentful of her alienation from Arria’s family and the death of her beloved Severus, whose murder she blames on Garic. In addition, the partnership between Marcella and Drusus is a complicated one—they are both opportunists who have ample reason to distrust and resent each other. Ripley Miller (On the Edge of the Sunrise, 2015) astutely brings to life a Rome teetering precariously on the brink of collapse, increasingly threatened at its borders. She also portrays the tension between paganism and Christianity with subtlety and nuance. This is the second installment of a series, and while it stands well enough on its own—the author makes repeated references to the back story provided in the first book—it’s worth reading the two as a pair. As in the opener, the attention to historical detail creates atmospheric authenticity in this sequel. But while the prose can be elegant, the dialogue is sometimes too Elizabethan: “ ‘What?’ she demanded. ‘Your gaze tells me that something is on your mind—and so soon after our lovemaking?’ ” Nevertheless, the plot advances energetically, and the combination of political and romantic drama—and spiritual as well—is rousing. The reader should be glad to have read this volume and eager for a third.

Intelligent and artfully crafted historical fiction about a religious relic.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

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


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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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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