A comically eccentric detective gets a terrific and fitting send-off.

WHITE RAIN

From the Misadventures of Max Bowman series , Vol. 4

In this fourth installment of a series, a private eye—out of commission for nearly a year—tries to regain lost memories and stumbles on a nefarious plot.

Sixty-year-old Max Bowman has no idea how he ended up in “the Community.” He knows he’s a former CIA operative, but the last few years of his life are a blank. After Howard, an old friend, visits, Max learns he’s in a Florida retirement home (of sorts) for agents who may know too much. He stops taking his medicine and makes a daring escape via motorized cart. But the life he’s slowly remembering has drastically changed in only 10 months. His girlfriend, Angela Davidson, has wed lobbyist Dudley “Duds” DeCosta. It’s not a happy marriage and Duds readily agrees to a divorce at Max’s request. The condition is that the private investigator must attend fundraisers for Sen. Eddie di Pineda’s reelection campaign. Max’s vouching for him will ease the senator’s ties to conspiracies swirling around the detective’s last few cases. At the same time, Max believes an enemy he thought he killed is still alive, at least according to cryptic, grammatically inaccurate texts he’s receiving. Soon, the PI and Angela’s son, Jeremy, called PMA (for Power, Mind, Action), find themselves in the middle of another conspiracy of worldwide proportions. As in earlier books, Canfield’s (Red Earth, 2017, etc.) latest entry—supposedly the final volume starring Max—boasts an often humorous tale and a progressively convoluted plot. Though initially the hero is simply piecing together returning memories, the story ultimately focuses on the mysterious yet clearly sinister scheme. But the best moments involve Max’s reunion with Angela and PMA. Max even acts like a nosy father to “the kid,” asking about his love life and offering his unsolicited opinion that PMA’s last boyfriend “wasn’t the right guy.” Max has been cynical throughout the series, but in this bracing and enjoyable tale, readers will surely sympathize with him as he hears what he’s missed (primarily in 2017). His reaction to Donald Trump as president and Coke Zero becoming Coke Zero Sugar is apropos: “What the hell had happened to the world in the past ten months?” 

A comically eccentric detective gets a terrific and fitting send-off.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9975707-3-1

Page Count: 376

Publisher: joined at the hip

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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