An enjoyable, if ultimately shallow, adventure beneath the sands.

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SUB-SAHARA

A team of experts attempts to explore a newly discovered pyramid in the Sahara in this debut archaeological thriller.

When a freak storm appears suddenly in Niger, a group of British and American archaeologists examining a newly discovered Saharan tomb is forced to take shelter in the underground complex. After surviving a harrowing night there, the band emerges to discover the storm has blown away the massive sand dunes that surrounded the site—and revealed what had been long buried underneath: “The land dipped away from them into a wide valley. Most of the valley was taken up by a prehistoric city. In the middle of the city, a large pyramid with smooth silver sides stood gleaming in the sun.” As the archaeologists rush to decipher the secrets of the pyramid—a structure that seems to exhibit technological prowess that makes little sense according to their understanding of human history—news of their find reaches a small island in the English Channel. There, a rogue billionaire has assembled an elite, private military force. Led by the no-nonsense James Cavill, the warriors are sent by their employer to launch an investigation of their own. It seems that satellites have picked up a massive energy source emanating from the silver pyramid. Considering that the pyramid has been buried for thousands of years, there is reason to suggest that the source might be sustainable. The only issue—for Cavill and the archaeologists wandering through the newly materialized city—is who else might be searching for the ancient secrets of the Sahara. Arkwright writes in a lean, taut prose that pushes the plot forward at a rapid pace. The premise is compelling, and the reader becomes quickly engrossed in the mysteries contained within the pyramid. While the dialogue is often overly expositional, and the book is ultimately more interested in gunfights than in prehistoric civilizations, fans of the genre should be entertained by this action story set in one of the world’s remotest regions. The author shows no interest in excavating any deep truths, but he proceeds to tell a suitably swashbuckling tale.

An enjoyable, if ultimately shallow, adventure beneath the sands.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9568880-5-1

Page Count: 282

Publisher: North Shield Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2016

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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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