An energetic, densely plotted tale that might have benefited from a stronger edit.

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The Law of Nature

Two men try to take down an American secret society bent on global domination in Priligkos’ debut thriller.

In 2015, during a live broadcast on a Chicago TV talk show, noted author and philosopher Jason Hannibal vows to reveal a scandal involving powerful people. Police inspector Marcos Ligos is watching the show at home when the screen turns black. Marcos saved Jason from an assassination attempt while working a security detail a decade prior, so he assumes the worst and goes looking for him. Indeed, Jason narrowly escaped members of a clandestine group known as the Physicists, which has been around since the end of World War II, promising its recruits a spiritual “Rebirth.” A disillusioned Jason left the Physicists 25 years ago and kept himself hidden, but he’s now an easy target—especially because someone killed his mob boss protector. (The group has also pinned a couple of murders on Jason.) After he meets up with Marcos, Jason surmises that they have mere hours until daylight, when they’ll be at risk of being spotted. In the meantime, the men try to find a golden key that will give them access to a secret room containing evidence that the Physicists have been controlling citizens and spearheading numerous, significant events, such as the Watergate scandal. Priligkos’ novel is packed with invigorating elements; for example, as the two main characters rush to beat the sunrise deadline, they also dodge a hit man pursuing them and struggle to keep Marcos’ involvement secret, in order to protect his 11-year-old son. It’s also a particular treat for conspiracy theorists, as it turns out that the Physicists had a hand in everything from Vietnam to Hollywood films. Some problems, however, hurt the story, including vague descriptions (such as one of an injured character who “drop[s] down full of blood”); references to Marcos as both “Marc” and “Mark”; and Jason citing The Omen as a film from 1973, even though it was actually released three years later. Likewise, a few notions come across as demeaning, such as an assertion that gay men in “professional fields” and women in powerful posts owe their successes to the Physicists’ manipulations. However, the book’s ending is undeniably memorable.

An energetic, densely plotted tale that might have benefited from a stronger edit.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 445

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2016

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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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