A superbly balanced, exactingly paced military thriller featuring a heroic attorney.

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Broken Eagle

A lawyer and Army Reserve aviator seeks to stop the production of a faulty Marine vehicle in this novel.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Jake Baird is a man with a fledgling law practice. One day he meets with Lisa Thorpe, whose husband, Sam, died while test flying an experimental Marine vehicle called the XV-11. The incident happened at Maryland’s Patuxent River Naval Air Station, and Lisa believes that the military is keeping information from her. While Jake doesn’t immediately file her lawsuit, he promises to investigate the circumstances of Sam’s death (he can’t be too reckless going against the military with his new contingency-free practice, which pays most of a case’s expenses). The next day, Jake finds a note in his convertible telling him to show up at a nearby restaurant. There, he encounters a stranger who leaves him with a folder full of classified information relating to the XV-11—aka the Sea Eagle—and its development. Jake must be cautious in trusting this contact, since the possession of classified documents is illegal. Meanwhile, elements of the local Marine Corps prepare to leave for a mission in Afghanistan using the Sea Eagle, which has yet to prove itself safe or reliable in simulated combat situations. In this tale, Crouse (Aviation Law, 2006) delivers an extremely fluid blend of legal thrills and military action. He conveys the problems of the XV-11 with both specialized terms and clear visuals that make the reader feel war craft savvy; the Sea Eagle, for example, has “twenty common hydraulic lines—so a bullet in one could cause simultaneous failure of several different hydraulic systems.” Crouse also reveals tricks of the lawyer’s trade, as when Jake attaches the classified documents to a Request to Admit, a written maneuver that would compel the opposing party to acknowledge the information within. No military thriller would be complete, however, without an exiled scientist (Dr. Stanislas Kolinsky), a smart, beautiful foil (fellow lawyer Madison Wright), and a cabal of murderous operatives—all of which Crouse uses to polish up his patriotic narrative.

A superbly balanced, exactingly paced military thriller featuring a heroic attorney.

Pub Date: June 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9974712-0-5

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Caromount Island Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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