A well-written, thoughtful military thriller that appreciates complexities and tells an exhilarating story.



In this novel set during the Vietnam War, a U.S. Army investigator tries to solve the mystery of a Caucasian man’s death.

It’s 1970, and George Tanner, a young American military police investigator, is in his 32nd month in South Vietnam. He’s charged with unraveling an unusual case: why did a Caucasian man wearing U.S. military gear walk out of the rain forest 100 kilometers north of Saigon in the middle of the night and straight up to an American infantry outpost? He was killed by the post’s defenders, but he lacked identification and his mission remains enigmatic. During Tanner’s probe, he comes up against the corruption and cynicism surrounding the failing American operation in Vietnam. Tanner’s commanding officer, for example, scoffs at the very idea of a real inquiry: “I don’t give an old whore’s fuck whether your procedures call for a tidy checklist wherein you eliminate possibilities with your Saigon cop buddies. What I want from you is one thing—a finding that the casualty was not an American.” While Tanner follows clues involving a rubber plantation, a showgirl, a warlord, and a wealthy socialite, he also tries to persuade his lover, a Vietnamese woman named Tuyet, to return to America with him, but Saigon is her home. With many forces arrayed against him, Tanner plays a dangerous game. Wallace (The Known Outcome, 2016), a former U.S. Army officer, draws on his experience for verisimilitude, which gives this thriller a solid backing. Tanner’s knowledge of Army procedures derives him as much solid information from repair slips and serial numbers as he gets from tough-guy action sequences—though there are plenty of those. Wallace’s pacing is taut, his characters well developed, and his Vietnamese locations authentic and beautifully evoked. The author also brings forth the war’s horrors and ironies with many well-judged observations, as when Tanner compares the Army to an old Roman road: “Commanders were its stones fitted together to withstand heavy loads”; a corrupt commander “had crumbled like a clay clod under a boot.”

A well-written, thoughtful military thriller that appreciates complexities and tells an exhilarating story.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9983291-3-0

Page Count: 302

Publisher: MC Publications

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

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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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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.


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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