A mystery with an unusual detective shows hints of promise, but ultimately fails to captivate.




A paraplegic private investigator tracks a cunning criminal in Wassermann's debut noir mystery.

When New Yorker P.I. A.J. Carlin is hired by handsome Eddie Dahlgren, she instinctively knows that all is not as it seems. Still, she agrees to locate the love interest of Eddie's wealthy, 32-year-old niece, Tanya, who moonlights as a singer in a musical group run by Floriana friars. A suspicious death of someone close to A.J., plus the long-ago disappearance of a friend's mother and a multimillion dollar inheritance of her own, soon have A.J. methodically unraveling the twisted truth about past and present crimes. Fiercely independent, A.J. continually reminds everyone about her physical condition throughout the case, often with self-deprecating jokes ("pint-size pleej gimp broad"). She isn't above using her wheelchair to her advantage when necessary, whether it's to gain access to an off-limits location or become conveniently invisible to an able-bodied crowd. Her fondness for strained metaphors ("sleeping like sliced salami"), her crude, tough-guy language and prickly nature suggest an isolated loner. Luckily, she isn't. A.J.'s saving grace is her odd assortment of friends and colleagues, including a beautiful childhood chum, a lawyer on the brink of retirement and electronics guru Tony the Ferret. All help illuminate the narrator's well-hidden sensitive side. Short chapters packed with dialogue and none of the long-winded, internal whodunnit debates that sometimes plague mysteries help the book move at a quick pace. While there are a few surprising twists, including a clever rouse to gather information from a closed office, the bulk of the novel marches steadily through the ho-hum, routine detective work of faxes, phone messages and interviews. The denouement, while containing an intriguing premise, feels hurried and out-of-sync with the rest of the novel. Similarly, the benevolent epilogue also feels far-fetched, especially given the thorny narrator.  

A mystery with an unusual detective shows hints of promise, but ultimately fails to captivate.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466228054

Page Count: 304

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


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

Did you like this book?