A predictable, entertaining story stuffed with espionage morsels.

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THE FOURTH RULE

In Seaver’s thriller, the CIA seems to have a targeted a man whose brother, missing for decades, may have stashed incriminating evidence.

Desalination plant engineer Matthew Grant is anxious when two men from Backchannel Security, at the CIA’s behest, show up at his door asking about his brother Mark. Matthew tells them that he hasn’t seen Mark since his return from Vietnam in 1961—22 years ago. The engineer goes on the offensive and teams up with TV foreign correspondent Robin Baxter to expose the CIA’s reputed illicit drug activity in Afghanistan. When Matthew evades the men following him, the baddies assume that he’s hiding Mark’s whereabouts and go after the one person Matthew’s trying his best to protect—his 16-year-old daughter, Caroline. In his debut novel, Seaver dabbles in spies, rogue agents, and international affairs and continually maintains suspense. Readers know more than the characters, but even when the narrative reveals Mark’s post-Nam fate, there’s much more that will gradually unfold—all the way until the very last doozy of a sentence. Regardless, intended surprises don’t always succeed; readers will likely catch up with the story faster than the author intended, and some will also guess the plot twists. Matthew may not be a spy, but his job affords him Middle Eastern contacts who, along with his FBI pal, help him gather intel on the people after him and his brother. Seaver provides a good amount of insight into Mark via his Vietnam letters to Matthew. On the spy front, there are a few shootouts, including one in a McDonald’s parking lot; an abduction; and more. There’s also a love triangle that’s teased early on but unfortunately never comes to fruition.

A predictable, entertaining story stuffed with espionage morsels.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1610091565

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Dark Oak Mysteries

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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