A multigenre espionage tale that’s unquestionably entertaining.

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TRUTH INSURRECTED

THE SAINT MARY PROJECT

In Douglas’ debut sci-fi thriller, an anonymous source puts a former FBI agent on the trail of a government conspiracy involving aliens.

Private investigator and ex–federal agent William Harrison doesn’t know who’s sending him postcards signed “Echo Tango.” But whoever it is, “ET” claims that there’s been a long government coverup, starting in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico, where two UFOs crashed. Five military policemen who witnessed the event died soon afterward in supposed accidents. Now the same thing may be happening again, as a UFO sighting mere months ago seems to have resulted in similar mishaps. Harrison teams up with his old FBI partner, Art Holcomb, and Nick Ridley, a Las Vegas cop whose brother-in-law may have fallen prey to the coverup. Once they find ET, the small group plans to bring down the Saint Mary Project, a government initiative to keep aliens a secret by any means necessary. This energetic thriller leans much more toward espionage than sci-fi, but its sprinkling of fantastical elements makes it a standout. Readers aren’t privy to any information about the aliens that the heroes don’t have, and this uncertainty generates a high level of suspense. At the same time, there’s enough sci-fi material to keep fans engrossed; for example, the (human) villains are aware of four alien species, but a largely unknown fifth one has them on edge. There are also a couple of alien-human hybrids, and at least one of them is working for the baddies. A bit of romance between Harrison and Janice, the new intern at his PI office, pales in comparison to the camaraderie among the men, who band together like soldiers. Readers will cheer when one of them saves another and become anxious when one of them disappears. There’s a definite resolution to the story but nary a break in the action until the end.

A multigenre espionage tale that’s unquestionably entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990737100

Page Count: 468

Publisher: Geminid Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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