A solid, if slanted, legal thriller.

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SANCTUARY

A CATALYST FOR MURDER

A private detective investigates the murder of a politician who supported the sanctuary city movement in this third crime novel in a series.

Bill Coine is a former Massachusetts state police homicide detective-turned-private investigator. He’s vacationing with his wife, Jeanie, in the Berkshires when Ted Prescott, the chairperson of the Fairlane, Massachusetts, board of selectmen, is found hanged in the room next door. Coine helps the inexperienced young patrolman who arrives first on the scene by taking photos and giving advice; this annoys police chief Tom Breshetti, who arrives later. The chief seems eager to dismiss the death as a suicide, even though forensic evidence points to murder, so Prescott’s widow hires Coine to investigate. The death is eventually ruled a homicide, possibly with a political motive. Prescott had led the movement to make Fairlane Township a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants, and he had an enemy in Jonathan Tanner, a fellow selectman who threatened board members, saying, “God help you both if any member of my family is harmed by a person who is in this country illegally and harbored by this town’s idiotic and unlawful law.” Not long afterward, Tanner’s son died during a carjacking by, as he puts it, “a Mexican who came to Fairlane after being deported three times.” But as Coine delves into the case, he uncovers clues that suggest a very different motive. Tanner is suspected again when another selectman is found murdered. He was killed by a crossbow—a weapon that Tanner is known to possess. When Coine finds that Tanner is being railroaded, he decides to work for the defense team. Only his dogged efforts can bring the real killer to justice. Hanrahan (A Deadly Recollection: Bullets from Brooklyn, 2018, etc.) is a former Boston trial attorney, and he clearly draws on that experience here, providing his novel with believable law enforcement and courtroom underpinnings. He handles these technical details well, while also ably wrangling a large cast of characters. In addition, he has a good sense of pacing and delivers engaging dialogue throughout. That said, the novel does tend to overpraise Coine as a character; for example, when he constructs a bulletin board of clues and question marks—a staple of TV, movies, and true-crime stories that will be familiar to many readers—Jeanie is said to be “impressed and overwhelmed” by it; she actually applauds. However, aside from supplying Coine with admiration, hot chocolate, and sandwiches, Jeanie is a cipher. Indeed, female characters play no role in the novel’s policing, detection, or jurisprudence, which, as a narrative decision, feels desperately old-fashioned. On the other hand, the topic of immigration couldn’t be more contemporary, even if some readers may disagree with this novel’s take on it; for example, Fairlane is said to have seen a sharp uptick in sexual and other physical assaults after becoming a sanctuary city. However, real-life, peer-reviewed studies have shown that undocumented immigrants aren’t more likely than anyone else to commit violent crimes.

A solid, if slanted, legal thriller.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 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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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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