Not enough unique here to leave a mark on a horror fan’s imagination.

A STAKE IN MURDER

Kirch offers an unusual twist on the overdone vampire mythos in this simplistic supernatural thriller.

For the creature at the center of his paranormal tale, Kirch wisely uses a variation on vampires, the Filipino aswang. Anton Gerrold was thought dead from a stake in the heart after a series of gruesome murders in Phoenix in 1991. But—oops—the authorities missed his tiny heart. So now Gerrold has returned to terrorize women in Los Angeles more than 20 years later. And he makes a horrific monster: “There was a scent to pregnant women that the vampire found irresistible….Nothing was more fantastic than unborn flesh being ripped between his teeth.” Capt. Darren Matheson, a veteran homicide detective, gets sucked into a world he doesn’t understand while investigating these bizarre attacks. The FBI agent who thought Gerrold had been destroyed sends Matheson to retrieve his former helper, disgraced reporter Sebastian Hemlock, from Kansas City, where he was resigned to working for a tabloid newspaper. Hemlock grabs this chance to get the job done right while redeeming his reputation and maybe rekindling his love with Karon Ramiko. “The FBI made him destroy my life as a means of controlling me and what I know: that there are indeed monsters in this world,” Hemlock says. While Kirch’s original concept is intriguing and he provides a diverting governmental-coverup subplot, this short narrative falls together far too neatly. Too quickly, Matheson, Hemlock and his ex-girlfriend Lt. Karon Ramiko have located Gerrold’s hideout and marched off on their mission to slay the beast, without enough time to build suspense. There’s little space dedicated to fleshing out these cardboard characters, either. Instead, it’s the steady cop and the bickering couple, who are still in love, that team up to save the day. The intriguing concept is wasted on a predictable narrative, adding little that’s new to the genre.

Not enough unique here to leave a mark on a horror fan’s imagination.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1771151955

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2014

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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