This little ditty about Jack and Diane is a fast-paced read that finds a few new wrinkles in a familiar genre.

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BURN ONE DOWN

“How hard could it be to steal from a bunch of potheads?” Thief Jack Apple finds out when he enters into a suspicious partnership to rob a medical marijuana dispensary in Cooper’s (How to Steal a Truck Full of Nickels, 2015) novel.

One of the most irresistible crime-fiction tropes is the criminal who wants to go straight but gets drawn in for one last score. But the sooner Jack puts his criminal life behind him, the better; even he has doubts that he’s “the master thief he once thought he was” due to a botched heist that opens the book. In it, he attempts to rob a home in which the resident, his violent goons, and some vicious dogs are present. On this fateful night, he also meets Diane Thomas, a 20-something femme fatale with an intriguing proposition. She wants him to help her rob a medical marijuana dispensary for a six-figure payoff; she stole the idea from her estranged husband. Jack puts up token resistance, but Diane is nothing if not persuasive. Before readers can say Dog Day Afternoon, the heist goes awry and a hostage situation ensues. Soon, Jack is dealing with a tough-talking sheriff facing re-election, a restless mob, activists eager to exploit the explosive situation, and competing TV news anchors with their own agendas. By the time the dispensary owner tells Jack, “You have no idea what a lousy idea this is, do you?” it’s too late. Overall, Cooper gives Jack some of the best lines in this brisk book (“Robbery is easy. Getting away with it is the hard part”), but Diane, who’s painted as a trigger-happy and not entirely trustworthy character (“I wasn’t lying. I just wasn’t telling you everything”), gives as good as she gets. Less convincing are the news media and hostages, who are more broadly and unconvincingly drawn. There’s a nifty, sequel-ready climax, although the novel’s epilogue, which ties up some of the less engaging plot threads, takes some of the wind out of the story’s sails.

This little ditty about Jack and Diane is a fast-paced read that finds a few new wrinkles in a familiar genre.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 249

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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