A gumshoe whose scrupulous efforts are increasingly captivating and worthwhile.

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Caught In The Fable

In this mystery, a private investigator searches for clues surrounding a nuclear physicist, part of the Manhattan Project and missing for more than half a century.

It’s 2002 when Leland Wilson hires Denver private eye Jacob Martin to look into a missing-persons case, more than 50 years since his scientist father, Hollis, vanished. Jacob had already taken a stab at the case back in 1986 for Leland and his sister, Miriam, but ultimately turned up nothing significant. There may be a break this time, however, with Hollis’ packed suitcase unearthed a mere 80 miles from his Albuquerque, New Mexico, home. His children acknowledge that, even if Hollis wasn’t a murder victim, the man, a prospective 84 in ’02, may have died naturally. But they want his name cleared. Days before Hollis’ disappearance, British intelligence arrested Klaus Fuchs on suspicion of spying for the Soviets. Since Fuchs was Hollis’ superior at a Los Alamos lab working alongside J. Robert Oppenheimer, the FBI surmised an equally guilty Hollis fled his inevitable capture. Jacob scours New Mexico questioning the physicist’s colleagues and surprisingly finds evidence of other spies. He’s clearly making someone nervous—someone who tosses his hotel room and later shadows him. But when cops link the culprit to a recent murder, Jacob could very well be next on a killer’s list. Despite the espionage that Jacob is bound to uncover, this tale is primarily a detective story. The pace is unhurried, with Robinson (The Last Cold Warrior, 2007) establishing details first, complete with a flashback to the 1986 investigation before the 2002 one begins. But the narrative’s devotion to the case is impressive, most of the book consisting of Jacob’s interrogations as he slowly pieces together what he’s learning. Engrossing relationships, meanwhile, stem from the investigation— women he meets along the way, including Hollis’ assistant Kathleen Cooper and Detective Jessie Begay. There’s potential for romance, but Robinson smartly leaves moments like Jessie inviting Jacob to the police station (“Want to come?”) ambiguous. The plot only intensifies as the private eye amasses information and weeds out red herrings, while the credible story opts not to provide easy answers or a bad guy with a smoking gun.

A gumshoe whose scrupulous efforts are increasingly captivating and worthwhile.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4602-7321-0

Page Count: 438

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: July 14, 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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