A spirited beginning to a new mystery series that’s haunted with humor.

GHOST BUSTING MYSTERY

From the Shady Hooiser Detective Agency series , Vol. 1

Senior sleuths search for ghosts, gold, and a missing dachshund in Indiana.

Sixty-seven-year-old Ruby Jane “RJ” Waskom narrates this debut mystery. RJ and her best friend, 71-year-old Veenie Goens, work as detectives-in-training with “the best—okay the only—PI agency in Knobby Waters.” The women share a house and a car (a turquoise 1960 Chevy Impala), and they like to keep an emergency pie on hand. Their neighbor Dode Schneider, who “wasn’t right in the head even before that snowplow hit him,” hires them to investigate the apparitions he claims he’s seen by the apple orchard at the Wyatt mansion, abandoned nearly 100 years ago by Jedidiah Wyatt, one of the town’s founding fathers. Wyatt operated the local bank, but when it failed in 1919, in part because a flood washed away the crops that were the residents’ source of income, he rowed out of soggy Knobby Waters with all the gold and other valuables he stole from the institution’s vault. About the only thing left in the safe was a note that read “Adios, folks.” Intrigued by the tale of the stolen gold and committed to the ghost hunt, the gumshoes also answer an ad about a missing dachshund. Finding Puddles, a much-loved pudgy “wiener dog,” would bring in a welcome reward. Plenty of silliness mixes with multiple mysteries in Pettles’ very funny series opener. Wacky but, for the most part, charming characters populate Knobby Waters. Among the townspeople are junior police officer Devon Hattabaugh, whose mutton-chop sideburns “bushed out like squirrel tails,” and Ma and Peepaw Horton, who operate an always-open pie pantry in their tool shed. Unlike most female detectives in mystery series, crusty RJ and Veenie lack any kind of civility and clearly get joy out of what others would find frightening. When agreeing to take on the paranormal assignment, RJ reckons that she and Veenie have been outwitting living people for quite some time, and “how much smarter could the dead be?” Descriptions and dialogue are clever, amusing, and often quotable. Perhaps the only unfortunate thing about the book is its uninspired title. The author, born in a small Indiana town, writes with knowledge and affection about a quirky cast of Hoosiers.

A spirited beginning to a new mystery series that’s haunted with humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9815678-2-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hot Pants Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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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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