An unevenly written mystery enlivened by intriguing historical and cultural tidbits.



A battle between a powerful land developer in Hawaii and a group of locals and environmentalists escalates into violence in Shon (Poison in Paradise, 2016, etc.) and debut author Hagino’s murder mystery.

The Kaka’ako district of Honolulu, a semi-industrial area with ocean views on one side and mountain views on the other, is the perfect spot for a high-rise condo development. Businessman Robert Shilling has his ducks lined up—connections on the zoning board, a police officer in his pocket, and plenty of cash to buy off the other powers that be. Although he faces opposition from conservationists, archaeologists, a reporter, and locals who want the area to remain “pono” (or culturally authentic), it looks like Shilling will win the day. Then a distracted bus driver plows into the stone wall that surrounds the Kawaiahao Church, the oldest permanent house of worship on the island of Oahu; this unearths an old wooden box, which is given to the Cook Museum. Inside is an 1855 deed to a parcel of land that Shilling needs for his project. The deed, and a recent will that bequeaths the parcel to Kekoa Potter, a young Honolulu resident, is the catalyst that turns the civil battle into a murder mystery. Although it initially appears that reporter Zoe Lee and Cook Museum researcher Kirk Daniels will be the central protagonists, the most prominent characters as the novel progresses are Detective Charlie C. Chang and his restaurant-owner buddy Yoshiro “Moto” Fujimoto. The pace of the story increases after its central murder, but all the characters—the good, the bad, and the quirky—are thinly drawn, and the narration is sometimes more dispassionate than engaging: “And that’s how the conversation went for another five or so minutes.” That said, the authors do effectively communicate the long-standing tension between the Kama’ainas (native Hawaiians by birth) and the haoles (outsiders), and the cast interestingly reflects the diverse cultures (indigenous, Chinese, Japanese, mainland Americans, and so on) that comprise modern Hawaii. The plot also delivers a bit of a surprise at the end.

An unevenly written mystery enlivened by intriguing historical and cultural tidbits.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2017


Page Count: 148

Publisher: LitFire Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

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


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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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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