A somewhat formulaic but still well-crafted suspense story.

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AN ABSENCE OF ETHICS

A legal thriller that looks at the corrosive effects organized crime has on the moral compasses of normally well-intentioned people.

Millhollin’s third book (Brakus, 2014, etc.) draws deeply from his own mastery of the law: He was a practicing lawyer for 41 years. The sometimes sordid tale begins darkly, with a grizzled assassin stoically disposing of two men who had become liabilities to the crime family for which they worked. That killer for hire, Tommie Thompson, is then dispatched to Nashville to handle a delicate problem: Paul “Jake” McKay, the estranged son of the family’s head, has accidentally yet remorselessly killed a prostitute and now faces jail time. Thompson’s job is to ensure, one way or another, that McKay never sees the inside of a jail cell. Problematically, Thompson is charged with driving while intoxicated in Nashville, putting himself in legal jeopardy as well. Both cases are assigned to an up-and-coming lawyer, newly minted as a partner in her firm, Rosa Norway, who has devoted herself to her career to the exclusion of distracting personal entanglements. She finds herself enchanted by Judge Hampton, though, and embarks on a romantic relationship with him, somewhat recklessly because he presides over both the McKay and Thompson cases. Wracked with debt from a messy divorce, Hampton is approached by Thompson to help fix the outcomes in both cases, which means manipulating Rosa’s handling of them. What ensues is a tangled web of deception, romance and artfully crafted crime that drives a complex, suspenseful narrative to a crescendoing climax. Millhollin adeptly captures Rosa’s anxiety as she learns the precariousness of her situation: “Rosa watched the sun rise, but not by choice. She was extremely worried how today would play out and sleep was impossible. She not only had the uncertainty of the sentencing of McKay but she had the unpredictable issue of the volatility of both her client and his one-legged friend.” The drama is paced briskly, and the dialogue is sharply written, though the characters are sometimes confected out of shopworn clichés. Nevertheless, bad guys remain scary enough, and Rosa real enough, to grip the reader’s attention until the end.

A somewhat formulaic but still well-crafted suspense story.

Pub Date: July 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692249208

Page Count: 250

Publisher: TouchPoint Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

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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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