A compelling, well-written thriller with an effective, twisty plot.



In this literary thriller, a privileged woman’s life unravels when a figure from her past seeks her out.

In 2014, Watch Hill, Rhode Island, is a moneyed summer haven of yachts and “fifteen-bedroom ‘cottages.’ ” For middle-aged Susan Ford, née Bentley, it’s the 18th summer she’s spent there since meeting her husband, Jack, who died five years ago. With her friend (and stepson) Jack Jr., Susan helps to run a real estate business. The last thing she expects on a calm morning in August is a visit from the FBI, and questions about a man named Samuel Fakhouri. She claims not to know him—but when agents picked him up, arriving in Boston from Baghdad, he had Susan’s name and address on him. She stalls the feds so that she can visit her Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City, where she retrieves an old white envelope and a gun from a safe. When she meets again with the FBI, she’s ready to admit that she once knew Sammy, and the narrative moves to 1979 and suburban Detroit. Back then, Susan was an ambitious college student working at Frankie’s Disco for the summer with her friend Annie Nelson. Annie is bold, “impossibly beautiful,” and impulsive, and an unlikely pal for studious, serious Susan. Through Annie, Susan meets Sammy, a handsome Chaldean Catholic from a village near Mosul, Iraq. He’s one of the regulars at Frankie’s, and when he later takes her on a date, Susan doesn’t mind when she notices that “a gun had peeked out from Sammy’s waistband when he leaned in to kiss her.” In fact, the element of danger only seems to make him more attractive to her. As the past haunts the present, Susan must confront the secrets, lies, and choices that she made before she became Mrs. Ford. Royce, an actress and a story editor for Miramax, imbues her debut novel with plenty of drama, suspense, and sharp observations. For example, in the scenes set in 1979, she has Susan study “the indigenous peoples of Frankie’s” like a social scientist: “Italian-American men, Chaldean men, odd unaffiliated men, and pretty girls…leggy all-Americans, whose parents neither knew nor cared where they went on hot summer nights.” In 2014, she’s still noticing similarly telling details, as when she describes Jack Jr.’s seersucker suit as “just the right level of rumpled. His bowtie and pocket square are in matching yellow silk with a tiny pattern of Labrador Retrievers.” The other characters’ reminiscences and backstories, too, help to establish them as three-dimensional personalities. The novel’s sense of time and place, whether in Detroit or Manhattan, or in the 1970s or the 2010s, is always vivid and well-rendered. At first, it will be unclear to the reader why Susan is so filled with dread, as even the memories of 1979 seem fairly innocuous at first. However, Royce cleverly builds up troubling circumstances that drive toward a dramatic twist, which readers will find to be both plausible and unexpected.

A compelling, well-written thriller with an effective, twisty plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64293-172-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Post Hill Pr

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2019

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


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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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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