Archaeological mystery and murder wandering in a desert of dialogue.

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THE CLEOPATRA AFFAIR

FROM THE PYRAMIDER TRILOGY

American spy hero Tristan Boumann uncovers the lost tomb of Cleopatra in this stand-alone murder mystery in Vinc3nt’s Pyramider spy-fi trilogy.

In 2010, after the assassination of an American archaeologist, Sen. Jack Ranstead calls on his friend Tristan Boumann to travel to Cairo to conduct an investigation. Wanting to avoid international tension and interference with Egypt’s tourist trade, Ranstead instructs Boumann to “look like you’re conducting an investigation, file a generic report, and get out of the way, so it can all blow over.” Boumann has other ideas when he arrives at the American Embassy and, after reviewing the compound’s security tapes, concludes the murder was an “inside job.” As Boumann pokes around for clues, he learns that the murder victim was working on an archaeological dig at an ancient temple known as Taposiris Magna while searching for the lost tomb of Cleopatra. The site also happens to be where Allied forces won a decisive battle at El Alamein in 1942 thanks to new Sherman tanks provided by the Americans. Boumann learns that during the war, the OSS (predecessor of the CIA) assigned Balthazar Flanders to the region to teach the Brits how to operate the tanks. When Boumann learns that Flanders’ dog tags were recently found at the dig site, he deduces that the OSS operative was pilfering Egyptian antiquities during the war and that his grandson Prescott may have other artifacts from Cleopatra’s tomb. From here, the plot goes astray as it tries to find ways to solve the murder and locate Cleopatra’s tomb. In an explosive ending that’s far from foreshadowed, the sarcophagus containing Cleopatra’s mummy shows up in an unexpected place. Bewildered readers won’t see it coming. While Vinc3nt’s solid prose reflects a considerable command of geography, history, and international affairs, it relies too heavily on dialogue. In the end, the plot twist is too crazy for a simmering story that never boils.

Archaeological mystery and murder wandering in a desert of dialogue.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Pyramider Laboratories

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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