An excellent police thriller from a new talent.

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THE TESTING POINT

This boisterous cop drama set in Boston’s troubled Tremont neighborhood offers more than the usual mix of corruption, organized crime and paranoiac plot twists.

A prostitute lies dead in a cheap motel in a bad part of town. Her suspected killer—a city policeman—is hauled away amid the glare of the local press. It all looks clear enough for everyone except young, streetwise Officer Ben Grasso (and perhaps Dennis Lehane fans), who begins his own covert investigation into the increasingly convoluted situation. He knows his childhood buddy Andy McGill is being framed for the shooting, but by whom? And why? Grasso’s knockout new partner—nightstick-wielding ex-Israeli intelligence agent Dina Greenbaum—joins in the search for the real story behind the young working girl’s murder, which leads them deep into a fairly predictable but entertaining tangle of organized crime and police corruption. Secret alliances, rogue bikers and a shadowy figure named Frank Ferrante complicate the pursuit of truth, as does a problematic romance that threatens to bubble up between Officers Grasso and Greenbaum. Hidden agendas are the order of the day, along with baseball, shootouts, familial responsibility and explosions. With these elements firmly in hand, the author turns out a more-than-competent thriller sure to please genre aficionados who like their crime fiction fast-paced, but not too broody or cerebral. Collins’ heroes and villains are comfortably life-sized, and his flair for interesting details of time and place keep the prose realistic but not dull. What helps elevate Collins’ debut from similar fare are his intriguing (but not belabored) digressions into his protagonists’ compelling back stories: Grasso’s ongoing balancing act between idealism and pragmatism rings true, without veering needlessly into chest-thumping machismo or blue-collar bathos, while Greenbaum’s mysterious doings with the Mossad are taut enough to be a self-contained tale. Readers rooting for further adventures from the duo will welcome the novel’s tidy, open-ended finale, which suggests the beginning of a potentially popular series.

An excellent police thriller from a new talent.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475146882

Page Count: 256

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2012

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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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