Not the strongest espionage tale in the series, but still an entertaining one.

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CYPHERGHOST

From the Spies Lie Series series , Vol. 7

In this seventh installment of the Spies Lie series, a talented young hacker seeks revenge on behalf of her dead boyfriend. 

After Charlette DeSpain’s boyfriend Martin Burns is falsely accused of stealing government secrets and meets a suspicious end in prison, she devotes her entire existence to becoming an ace computer hacker and using those skills to clear his name posthumously. Frustrated by the lack of interest in her findings, “she decided to try anything she thought had a chance of working, even if there were side casualties. They all deserved to die.” When Charlette—now known as the CypherGhost—tries to hack and crash a plane containing fellow hacking genius Ann Silbey Sashakovich, Ann thwarts the attempt using her own special abilities. Despite initially being at odds, the two young women team up when the government rounds up computer hackers—black and white hats alike—and sends them to concentration camps in the West (“There are two in the Nevada desert, three in the Utah mountains, five in Wyoming, and one in northern Arizona”). But despite a steamy romance with Ann, the devious CypherGhost may not be the ally she appears to be. When Ann and the CypherGhost both swallow highly advanced nanodevices that allow them to hack from inside their own heads, the stakes quickly escalate. Kane (ProxyWar, 2016, etc.) has produced his most outlandish espionage saga yet, and while one doesn’t doubt that the purported former spy has drawn on some elements of truth for his latest book, it feels much less grounded in reality than the previous series installments. Kane’s novels are always packed with enough terrifying detail to feel at least moderately plausible, if not horrifyingly prescient, but once his all-star hacker team deviates from computers and manipulates members’ brains, things start to feel less like Robert Ludlum and more like The Matrix. Nevertheless, the colorful cast of characters remains as engaging as ever, even as the story goes increasingly off the rails. 

Not the strongest espionage tale in the series, but still an entertaining one. 

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9862321-9-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: The Swift Shadow Group

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2017

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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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