Perhaps not a book to read by the seashore, if you’re literal-minded. A spooky pleasure, expertly told.

HARBOR

Scandinavian writers dominate the police-procedural genre. Are they now bent on taking over horror? Swedish creepmeister Lindqvist is hot on the case.  

The author of one of the scariest vampire novels to have come out in years, Let Me In (2007) (film version Let the Right One In), Lindqvist drifts squarely into Stephen King territory with his latest—which, it seems, is a bit of a roman à clef, reflecting the author’s childhood in a Stockholm housing development on the edge of the city. So it is with Domarö, an island not far from the Swedish capital where hoary old fishermen mend their nets and rough-edged yokels sharpen their knives, even as smart urbanites zip about in their fine cars and well-made clothes. One of those city slickers, a pensive fellow named Anders, suffers a terrible blow when his daughter, Maja, sees something mysterious, goes to have a look and disappears. “She was good at finding places to hide,” Anders reasons at first. “Although she could be over-excited and eager in other situations, when she was playing hide and seek she could keep quiet and still for any length of time.” Well, this is a very serious game of hide and seek indeed, for others on this island have gone missing, too—boatloads of them, with cases of schnapps as a gift to the critters that dwell in the spectral Baltic waters. Will Anders ever find his daughter? Perhaps, perhaps not—and therein hangs the tale. Lindqvist ventures on heavy-handedness by introducing a character who, a touch too conveniently, happens to be a retired magician with a trick up his sleeve (or, more to the point, in his matchbox) and lots of wisdom to dispense. In the main, though, he capably keeps his story far from the usual splatterfest slasher stuff and instead holds it to the confines of psychological thriller, which is plenty spooky enough, atmospheric and foreboding: “There is a film of moisture over everything and water drips from the leaves of the trees, as if this island has risen from the sea just to meet him.”

Perhaps not a book to read by the seashore, if you’re literal-minded. A spooky pleasure, expertly told.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-68027-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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