Police chases and social commentary come together in this rollicking murder story about an affluent family torn apart by...

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The Thruway Killers

A killer and his girlfriend go on the run from the FBI in this crime novel.

Arthur McPhee is the owner of a successful wine and spirits business that operates many liquor stores in the Northeast. He lives in the tony enclave of Whispering Hills, Connecticut, a “bed and breakfast town where only the very wealthy could afford to live.” His younger son, Donald, who is gainfully employed in the family business, is getting married, while his older son, Droogan, is practically middle-aged, unemployed, disheveled, overweight, and smokes crack. Arthur is horrified by Droogan’s listlessness, having watched him “flunking out of college and then flunking out of life.” Droogan enters into a romantic entanglement with Angela, one of the household’s black maids. Arthur tries to buy off Angela so that she won’t marry Droogan, and she readily accepts the money. Meanwhile, Arthur’s third wife, Sabrina, harbors a secret hatred of her husband. She enlists Droogan in a plan to kill Arthur for his money, which the son agrees to do because he is so upset about his father trying to pay off Angela. When Droogan accidentally kills the wrong person, he and Angela skip town, attempting to flee to Canada. Pursued by the formidable Agent Roderigo Rojas of the FBI and a mercenary named the Spartan, Droogan slips into a shadowy religious cult, where his problems begin to multiply. Havel (The Orphan of Mecca, 2015, etc.) packs a good deal into his novel, which at first glance may appear to be a simple crime story. Murdering a family member to get his money is an old routine, but the author develops the book’s diverse characters in a layered enough way to give the story more substance than its lighthearted tone would indicate. Themes of interracial or interreligious marriage predominate, from both a black and white perspective. Havel seems interested in whether the American take on group politics is universal and whether crossing lines leads to ruin. As the body count increases, readers learn more about Rojas and some troubled members of the cult, leading to a climax that is a bit far-fetched but still a lot of fun.

Police chases and social commentary come together in this rollicking murder story about an affluent family torn apart by greed, prejudice, and its own foibles.

Pub Date: May 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-68122-840-2

Page Count: 430

Publisher: America Star Books

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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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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