A subdued but effective thriller that provides an ideal starting point for its exemplary protagonist.

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REACTION TO MURDER

A DCI BROADLY CRIME NOVEL

In Veale’s debut procedural thriller, a burned and beaten body is found in the wreckage of a devastating fire at a U.K. college.

DCI Jonny Broadly and DS Graeme “Kindley” Kindleyside are working a robbery case when they hear that a local college is engulfed in flames. An arson investigation suggests negligence, but teacher Phillip Henry Blakeridge is found dead on-site with indications of head trauma. The police find a drug connection: Blakeridge dabbled in illicit substances, and Broadly thinks a perturbed drug supplier was driving the Range Rover that recently tried to run Broadly’s Saab off the road. Blakeridge’s numerous affairs, both male and female, leave the coppers with a lengthy list of suspects. Broadly and Kindley whittle down the list, which comprises mostly people at the college, and hope to find damning evidence against a killer. The novel features a scrupulous DCI who relentlessly questions suspects until an alibi is verified or debunked, and it’s no surprise when one of the accused charges Broadly with harassment. The leisurely but sturdy investigation is hobbled by the ongoing and decidedly less engaging case involving a trio of robbed post offices. Flashbacks to Broadly’s time in college likewise sideline the murder mystery and don’t reveal much about the DCI’s personal life. The first-person narrator (in these flashback scenes only) isn’t Broadly, who is temporarily relegated to a supporting role. While readers follow the protagonist down a series of dead ends, the story accumulates many viable suspects, and readers won’t easily pinpoint the guilty party. The latter half picks up considerably once the robberies are all but solved and the coppers focus solely on the murder; they even, rather appropriately, establish the “Murder HQ” at the college’s old gym. Structural issues, mostly characters’ dialogue bunched into single paragraphs, are annoying but don’t hamper the story. The ending lacks some resolution for all that’s occurred, including a second murder, but a wrap-up acknowledges that a sequel may be in the offing.

A subdued but effective thriller that provides an ideal starting point for its exemplary protagonist.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 267

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2015

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

DEVOLUTION

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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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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