A captivating legal thriller that’s impressively unpredictable.

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NEMESIS

A courtroom thriller depicts a friendly rivalry turned deadly. 

Elliot Barrett’s life is an enviable one. He’s a prestigious physician with a thriving practice, a well-appointed home in New York City, a devoted wife, and two loving children. He risks it all when he becomes romantically involved with Lindsey Anderson, the seductive daughter of a patient. When she turns up dead, the police immediately blame Elliot. There is incontrovertible evidence placing him in her apartment and damning if circumstantial evidence suggestive of a sexual affair. Elliot decides to deny the tryst and enlists the help of his best friend, Ted Lapoltsky, a successful lawyer, to defend him. Unbeknownst to Elliot, Ted also had an affair with Lindsey and wanted to leave his wife for her, a design she squarely rejected. Ted and Lindsey had become locked in a passionate argument about it, and when she revealed she was also seeing Elliot, Ted grabbed her in a jealous fury, causing her to hit her head and sink into unconsciousness. While Ted defends Elliot, he’s careful to avoid even a hint of self-incrimination. He also revels in the opportunity to see his prudishly judgmental rival publicly disgraced. Elliot’s world begins to crumble around him. His wife’s trust wanes, his family is mortified, and his professional reputation’s tarnished. Debut author Pinto meticulously constructs a view of Ted’s long-standing envy. He worked indefatigably to rise above his inauspicious beginnings while Elliot was born into privilege—and yet Ruth, Elliot’s wife, looks down on him as a coarse careerist. The prose is plain but the plot a compelling one; it’s consistently tense and defies expectations. However, Pinto has a grating tendency to provide far too much explanatory commentary, apparently reluctant to allow the reader to draw their own inferences from the action: “How ironic that Elliot had to meet Lindsey to introduce him to the temptations he was preaching against. Apparently Elliot was after this hormone effect also. How odd that we both ended up enjoying the same woman. Elliot had fallen under her spell.”

A captivating legal thriller that’s impressively unpredictable.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-942762-54-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Heliotrope Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 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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