While portions of this tale are overly detailed, supernatural surprises abound.

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50 BERKELEY SQUARE

A debut thriller focuses on a legendary haunted house in London.

Readers are told at the outset that the house at 50 Berkeley Square has a reputation for being haunted. It has also been the site of “a number of grizzly deaths.” One of those deaths occurs in the present day when a young woman named Maria Holden winds up leaping from the building. Maria’s death draws the attention of a man in his 20s named Jim Cartwright. Jim works in the accounts department at the London International Gazette, though his dream is to become a reporter. He manages to take quite a few pictures of the horrendous scene with his iPhone before fleeing into the night and making a commitment to investigate 50 Berkeley Square. Jim’s probe is interwoven with macabre scenes from the house’s past. There is, for instance, a man in 1789 who goes mad and has to be confined to the attic. And in 1840, an aristocrat named Sir Robert Warboys accepts a foolish wager requiring him to spend a night in the house. But the pressing issue is Jim and his mission to get to the bottom of what’s happening at the infamous landmark. Will his curiosity lead him to become one of the house’s victims? In order to answer that question, the plot explores many incidents, some of which are more exciting than others. McCran’s setup to Sir Robert’s bet is a lengthy journey and includes the hefty statement that “Sir Robert poisoned the air with a contaminating decadence that crushed the spirit of those who really did not like him!” But while aspects of the house’s history sometimes slow the tale down, they are incorporated in such a way as to make readers feel that they, like Jim, are discovering bits and pieces of an enthralling and bizarre past. After all, 50 Berkeley Square is a real London address with a connection to spirits. But even readers familiar with the dwelling should find that there is much captivating material to uncover here. Those who think a story based on an old house can’t include sex, drugs, and a glimpse at a futuristic London will, by the end, need to reconsider their assumptions.

While portions of this tale are overly detailed, supernatural surprises abound.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 323

Publisher: PartridgeAfrica

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2018

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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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