A slow-paced, awkwardly written Christian crime novel.

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IF YOU LOVE THIS WORLD

In this debut novel, Ng tells the story of a group of Canadians connected by a violent incident and their Christian faith.

A murder in the small town of Oshawa, Ontario, goes unsolved for 15 years, but it has unexpected effects on several people’s lives. The victim is a Mafia hit man named Diego Baroffio, originally of New York City, who ends up shot to death after a sketchy deal goes awry in an Oshawa antique furniture store. Detective Keith Kendelhart is a sharp local cop on the case who became a devout Christian after being saved from a near-stabbing in a restaurant. Other characters include Roy Benton, Baroffio’s childhood friend who works at a local department store; and Kiel and Margaret Mendel, two devout Christians involved in the evangelistic efforts of their church. Most central of all is the large Evans family, who owned the furniture store in which Baroffio was killed. Siblings Scott and Kimberly witness the murder, but their sister Miranda is drawn furthest into its aftereffects as she becomes locked in a dynastic struggle for the family’s wealth. Fate comes for sinners and believers alike, but as the mystery unfolds, Ng shows that the way people live their lives has great implications for the way that they meet their deaths. The plot is ambitious in its scope, exploring various subcultures, from that of organized crime to evangelizing Christians. The author uses an omniscient, third-person perspective that isn’t afraid to tip readers off with overt foreshadowing, but odd syntax and grammatical errors often rob the story of its tension: “There were, however, still crimes committed. One, in particular, will soon to meet Margaret Mendel face to face.” The plot is also too convoluted and leisurely for the mystery at the its center to ever feel very urgent—or even terribly mysterious, as the reader witnesses Baroffio’s murder. Much of the rest of the book is made up of digressions from the mystery, often involving Christian themes—but when all the threads finally tie together, they fail to add up to anything satisfying.

A slow-paced, awkwardly written Christian crime novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2625-1

Page Count: 318

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 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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