An engaging mystery with a late twist and an especially satisfying ending.



From the Mimi Goldman Chautauqua Murder Mysteries series , Vol. 5

In this fifth installment of a series, a journalist and incorrigible amateur sleuth investigates a murder that disrupts a celebration at a peaceful cultural retreat in New York State.

It is the Fourth of July, and the Chautauqua Institution’s 5,000-seat Amphitheater is filled for the annual Independence Day concert. As the orchestra reaches the crescendo of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” the audience pops paper bags on cue from the conductor. Lost in the cacophony is the sound of gunfire. Nobody hears it. Then Mimi Goldman, the sports editor of the Chautauquan Daily, sees EMTs racing to take out a woman on a stretcher. A 36-year-old documentary filmmaker, Maureen Donahue, has been killed. Mimi, who hails from New York City and logged several decades as a reporter and copy editor for the New York Post, plunges headfirst into the investigation. Never mind that she is about to marry her upstate beau, Walt Dellaria, and her schedule is already more than full. Who would have reason to kill Maureen? This, it turns out, is the wrong question, and it sends Mimi off on a tangent. No matter. There are plenty of little backstories to keep things gossipy and intriguing. When the prime suspect, Craig Halladay, a mentally disturbed man from New York City, turns himself in so he can proclaim his innocence, Mimi becomes suspicious that the case is being closed too quickly. Pines (Beside Still Waters, 2017, etc.), a newspaper copy editor and former reporter, produces snappy prose, and her narrative moves along at a healthy speed. On the way, readers are introduced to an assortment of eclectic secondary characters who make up the quirky ensemble of townies and visitors to the Chautauqua Institution, a well-known “summer camp for adults.” As in her previous volumes, the author takes the time to lay out the geography, history, and rich intellectual and artistic tapestry of the gated enclave, which first opened in the late 19th century. She builds her large cast of players with similar care, giving each one a chapter or two in which to star.

An engaging mystery with a late twist and an especially satisfying ending.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72317-982-2

Page Count: 262

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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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.


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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