A nuanced techno-thriller with both brains and brawn.

RATS

In Klingler’s debut thriller, a female sniper tracks down a bomber who targets U.S. military interests.

A motorcyclist leaves Alaska’s Caribou Motel at dawn. Using the name Arthur Tresuniak, the man drives at top speed toward the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Once within range, he begins tossing metallic, rod-shaped devices along the pipeline’s structure. The dozens of devices, equipped with tire treads, antennae and explosives, are called Rats. Arthur detonates them after racing away. The resulting disaster (which, from above, resembles a “Firesnake”) causes the stock of major oil companies to plummet and U.S. President Mallor to panic over his chances at re-election. Enter Gen. Billy Williams and his sharpshooting love, Col. Claire Ferreti. They visit Alaska to investigate just who or what is behind the pipeline sabotage. There, they meet 12-year-old Billy Norton, an imaginative kid who happens to have found an undetonated Rat. After Williams has specialists study the device, he learns that the Alaskan bomber’s profile matches that of the Demon—a shadowy operative known only by the faintest digital trail. Tracing the Demon to the Chinese-Vietnamese border, Williams decides to send Claire after him. Klingler’s debut offers a deep logistical jungle sure to entertain buffs and newcomers to the techno-thriller genre. Throughout, he displays fierce writing chops: He describes the pipeline as “a scar from a knife fight Alaska lost.” Short chapters balance action and subterfuge with political thought targeted keenly at modern drone warfare. Petry, a man running for president against Mallor, tells his audience to strive for “A world where robots are producing, not destroying, our way of life.” A subplot follows the fate of young Billy, who, after seeing a Rat detonate, is silenced by trauma; the theme of children suffering the worst during wartime—and long after—propels the rest of the plot into suitably daring territory.

A nuanced techno-thriller with both brains and brawn.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1941156025

Page Count: 454

Publisher: Cartosi LLC

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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