A well-plotted thriller with a likable, female protagonist strong enough to be featured in her own series.

TERMINATION OF BENEFITS

In Sloven’s impressive first installment of a planned series, someone is killing psychotherapists in Portland, Maine, and the primary suspect is another psychotherapist.

Sarah Green was a Boston lawyer with the public defender’s office until her best friend from college, Miriam Moss, was murdered by a criminal defense client. She moved to Portland, got a degree in clinical social work, and went into private practice as a trauma therapist. She also has some psychic skills. She experiences premonitions and can speak with dead people. It runs in the family. Sarah is preparing to accompany Louise Gold, another close friend and fellow therapist, to a court proceeding. Louise is testifying on behalf of Brooke Hart Tate, one of her patients, in a custody dispute. Brooke’s estranged husband, George Tate, happens to be the CEO of Constant Caring Managed Care Company, a health insurance corporation that pays (or, more often, denies payment to) most of the therapists we meet in this narrative. Testifying for George is Dr. Harold Henderson, an arrogant misogynist who treated Brooke and George in couple’s therapy. When Henderson turns up dead in his office, suspicion falls on Louise, who was overheard bad-mouthing him in the court’s restroom. Unfortunately, Louise is involved in a personal crisis (her husband, Mark, may or may not have fallen off the AA wagon) that is causing her to be more secretive and appear guilty. Sloven (co-author: Compassionate Journey, 2018) makes fine use of her own experience as lawyer-turned-psychotherapist to lay out an intricate, twisty plot that maintains a steady pace. Sarah is a complex character, still working her way through PTSD from Miriam’s death, conflicted about her paranormal visitations from Miriam, and simultaneously navigating two romantic relationships, one of which is with her wealthy former husband. There is a satisfying skewering of managed care health insurance, enough bad guys to provide tension and keep readers guessing, a few psychopathic patients to add to the danger, and a group of analysts still working out their own issues.

A well-plotted thriller with a likable, female protagonist strong enough to be featured in her own series.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-63381-130-0

Page Count: 265

Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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