A gleefully intricate tale of criminals, Wall Streeters, and various combinations thereof.

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2ND EDITION

In Hill’s debut thriller, a criminal seeks vengeance on a Manhattan investment banker and his lawyer wife.

Ellis Hord has made a name for himself at the New York City–based bank Mercantile Merchant, but it’s his past career, as a Pennsylvania cop two decades ago, that’s made him a target of Russian drug lord Nicholai Sidorov. During an undercover operation, Ellis had been involved in a gunfight in which several of Sidorov’s men were killed; the drug lord’s son, Peatra, was injured and subsequently imprisoned. Now Peatra, who endured abuse from other inmates and failed to receive proper medical care, is slowly dying. In an act of revenge, Sidorov sics his assassin, Konstantin, on Ellis and his former police partner, Michael Jackson; he also targets Ellis’ wife, Maggie, and even the couple’s dog. Around the same time, convicted serial rapist Justin Brookings escapes Rikers Island. He plots his own retribution against Maggie, the assistant district attorney who helped to convict him. Meanwhile, Ellis gets caught up in a merger between two firms, as one of them, Affordable Long Distance, is Mercantile Merchant’s client. At the same time, ALD’s CEO is suspected of shady deeds, which could end up tarnishing the bank’s reputation. However, Ellis and his loved ones aren’t the only ones in mortal danger. To further complicate matters, an unknown person has been brutally raping and murdering women, all of whom have connections to Ellis’ place of employment. As this summary makes clear, Hill’s novel is complex, but the narrative is never difficult to follow. The author skillfully manages a multitude of characters, providing succinct but pertinent details that clarify their roles in the plot. The many players include Jacques Torzinger, Jackson’s old friend who once worked as a Mossad analyst; and Carol, the Hords’ dogwalker, who may be in peril just because of her association with the couple. One drawback, however, to such a large cast is that several exceptional characters have disappointingly few or brief appearances. Jacques, for one, could carry his own novel or series all by himself, and Chet Bradford, a smart and capable police officer who works with Maggie, is also prime protagonist material. The pace is consistently brisk even during the many discussions about investments or financial decision-making; the author clarifies financial terminology, such as “initial public offerings” or “special purposes entities,” in footnotes without cluttering the narrative. But Hill also makes his characters’ environments memorable; in one scene, for instance, Chet and others walk into an autopsy room, which is described as having “a cold feel from more than just the ambient temperature” and “a strange smell—medicinal mixed with Lysol and formaldehyde.” The book’s lengthy final act offers a hodgepodge of significant deaths and shocking revelations. Although a few characters’ fates are left open and some other matters remain unresolved, it’s evident by the end that Hill is setting the stage for a sequel—one that readers will surely welcome.

A gleefully intricate tale of criminals, Wall Streeters, and various combinations thereof.

Pub Date: March 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4834-7563-9

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Lulu Publishing Services

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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