The literary thrust plays to Ifkovic’s strengths, but he leaves other central aspects underdeveloped and unresolved.

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Tommy's Path

Ifkovic (Make Believe, 2012, etc.), author of a mystery series about Edna Ferber, turns his eye toward Emily Dickinson and a professor obsessed with her in this convoluted mystery-cum-drama about a family’s inevitable dissolution.

After getting lost in a snowstorm, Fordham professor Bartholomew Judd finds himself driving down an isolated Connecticut road, inexplicably drawn to an ancient-looking clapboard house. Soon enough, he packs up the Manhattan apartment where he and his wife, Rebecca, live and transplants them to the history-soaked saltbox on Tommy’s Path. Rebecca, who gives up a beloved teaching job for this leap of faith, initially supports the change; she stifles her misgivings with a wildflower garden and huckleberry tarts. Ifkovic gradually reveals why: Rebecca is hoping new scenery will snap Bart out of a slump that has lingered since his graduate school days, though it has sharpened since a tragic incident 15 years ago involving their elder son, Jack. But as bad omens materialize, it becomes clear that Tommy’s Path isn’t the refuge it seemed. A professional nemesis of Bart’s charges back into their lives, and creepy neighbors (who may or may not be apparitions) breed conflict and transfix both Bart and Rebecca. The anxiety sends Bart into a tailspin: Thinking he’s stumbled onto a treasure trove of Emily Dickinson–related materials, he turns hermetic, suspicious. He obsesses over gathering evidence for the scholarly tome he finally feels ready to write. But the house, with its hidden passages and harbingers of death, transforms into a foreboding backdrop. Interesting details of Emily Dickinson’s life and work—and Ifkovic’s obvious knowledge of both—make this a fascinating read for any admirer of her poetry, although the storyline involving the Judd family tragedy and its final unraveling is less compelling. Once readers learn what Jack did, the hubbub seems overdramatized, spun into something unrealistic. As for the story’s spookier elements, Ifkovic leaves too many threads hanging.

The literary thrust plays to Ifkovic’s strengths, but he leaves other central aspects underdeveloped and unresolved.

Pub Date: May 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482337556

Page Count: 326

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2013

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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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The solution is maddeningly simple but the construction, simply masterful.

ONE BY ONE

Our contemporary Agatha Christie offers up her version of And Then There Were None when 11 people are stranded in a ritzy ski chalet and begin dying one by one.

By the numbers, the streaming app Snoop is devastatingly successful, and the company is on the cusp of a major buyout—if the shareholders vote to take this route. The founders, Topher and Eva, are torn, and the other three shareholders are being courted to choose sides. Most of the pressure falls on Liz, an awkward outlier when compared with the glamorous, beautiful people who head up the company. Though she doesn't work directly for Snoop anymore, Liz is included in the leadership retreat: It's her and eight other board members at a lush, remote French ski chalet for a little powder, a little pampering, and a little back-channel business. Erin and Danny, the caretakers of the chalet, notice tension among the members of the Snoop group from the beginning, but overall it seems like just another wealthy, entitled corporate gathering. The weather on top of the mountain grows increasingly dangerous, and when nine people go out to ski and only eight return, fear and suspicion begin to grow. Then there's an avalanche, and the chalet is cut off from contact with the outside world. Soon, another group member dies, apparently poisoned, and then another is murdered because of something she saw. The survivors must split up to search for help before there's no one left. Alternating chapters between Liz's and Erin’s points of view, Ware does what she does best: Gives us a familiar locked-door mystery setup and lets the tension and suspicion marinate until they reach fever pitch. Another win for Ware and her adaptations of classic mystery traditions.

The solution is maddeningly simple but the construction, simply masterful.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8881-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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