A gratifying page-turner that’s perfect for a summer read.

THE SPIRIT OF THE AUTUMN WIND

A friendship is tested when a chance encounter results in death and an unexpected conspiracy in Shae’s (Restless Secrets, 2017) thriller.

Regan Quinn and Nikolas “Niko” Mararious have been close ever since they were kids. They grew up together in a Greek orphanage, so they have a unique bond that’s helped them through the worst of times. Both are accomplished sailors, but after years of grueling work, they’re ready for a change. When Regan comes to Niko with some exciting news, it seems like things are looking up: A lucky bargain allowed Regan to buy an old marina and restaurant in Ireland, and he asks Niko to be his business partner. Niko’s initial elation is quickly overshadowed by a dark secret that he’s reluctant to share, even with his close friend, involving a criminal past. To make matters worse, the pair find themselves involved in a murder after a confrontation turns deadly. Knowing their lives are at risk, they make plans to leave for Ireland, confident they’ll be safe at last. But little do they know that Liam O’Hare, the sinister captain of the infamous ship the Autumn Wind and Niko’s former boss, will stop at nothing to derail their plans. Shae describes the ruggedness of sea life in startling detail, and the sense of dread surrounding the activities aboard the titular boat heightens the sense of anxiety: “He did not speak of what went on aboard the ship; no one did, because the crew was made up of desperate men who were safer on the Autumn Wind than anywhere else.” There are a few side plots that add other intriguing elements, such as a budding romance between Regan and Loren Lombardi, an Italian crime reporter. Mistaken identities, revenge, and betrayal all have a part to play, and the exotic locales only add to the intoxicating atmosphere of intrigue. The contrast in characterization between Niko and Regan is strikingly complex, and their opposite personalities generate tension and exhilaration. Several other side characters keep things lively and amusing, and the addition of an organized crime element gives the story a satisfying edge.

A gratifying page-turner that’s perfect for a summer read.

Pub Date: May 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-3314-3

Page Count: 390

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

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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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