Winning first installment in a planned series, sure to be loved by fans of both mysteries and historical fiction.



A Separatist healer is determined to identify a killer, even if it places her under suspicion for incompetence—or even murder—in Sullivan’s (Deadly Diversion, 2009, etc.) historical mystery.

In the strict religious community of Zoar, Ohio, healer and midwife Adelaide Bechtmann is already flirting with disapproval when she goes to her favorite riverside spot to meditate. Instead of finding peace, she discovers the body of 16-year-old Johanna Appelgate floating in the river. When she pulls Johanna out of the water, Adelaide knows the young woman couldn’t have drowned, due to the absence of water in her lungs. The Separatists are all too willing to dismiss Johanna's death as a tragic accident, so Adelaide’s attempts to find her killer ignite controversy in the closed community. Even her beloved husband, Benjamin, fearing the loss of their comfortable life, refuses to support his wife’s investigation. Adelaide’s knowledge that the young woman was pregnant complicates the situation, and she’s anxious that the “remedy” she prescribed may have contributed to Johanna’s demise. Adelaide struggles to preserve the reputation of the deceased girl, even as her own deteriorates, and she can’t help but remember her husband’s closeness to Johanna. The conflicts between homeopathy and traditional medicine, marriage and celibacy and the eternal struggle for power among the male Separatists are all interwoven in the finely drawn murder mystery. Award-winning Sullivan brings the Zoar community to life, imbuing both real and fictional characters with laudable qualities as well as flaws, although antagonists Simon, Martin and Gerda are unrelentingly unsympathetic. While enough background information on the Separatists is provided to prevent reader confusion, Sullivan is a little stingy with her backstory, hinting at Adelaide’s prior tragic error without ever fully explaining it. Sullivan’s otherwise expertly crafted, perfectly paced novel suffers from comparatively underdeveloped relationships between Adelaide and those presumably closest to her—her husband Benjamin and sister Nellie.

Winning first installment in a planned series, sure to be loved by fans of both mysteries and historical fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1936214556

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Yesteryear Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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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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