The action picks up in the terrifying Dublin Woods on Halloween Night in 1892. Mick Patrican is badly wounded, and the woods...

THE HAUNTED TRAIL

THE WAR OF THE DUBLIN WOODS

Lukegord (The Haunted Trail, 2013) tosses every horror trope imaginable into this sequel.

The action picks up in the terrifying Dublin Woods on Halloween Night in 1892. Mick Patrican is badly wounded, and the woods are crawling with lunatics intent on murder. He knows he must find a safe place to hide, but he’s also charged with locating two magical four-leaf clovers, one of which is ensconced in a mummy’s evil heart. The clovers are the key to defeating the mummy, ending its curse and saving all of Ireland. Luckily for Mick, the ghosts of his dead brothers have stuck around to help him out. However, Lukegord quickly abandons Mick’s quest, turning instead to a series of brutal murders. Police officers are dispatched into Dublin Woods to search for their missing colleagues and sort through the mayhem, and the various teams are swiftly picked off in multiple violent episodes. The officers spend much of the novel stumbling over dead bodies, themselves, and the evil mummy’s resting place. Soon, even more police are dispatched, in what seems to be a narrative excuse to provide new bodies to annihilate. Mick’s quest is finally revisited near the end, when he defeats the mummy and rescues the four-leaf clover, which also contains healing powers. The author finishes with a chapter that focuses on the fates of various underdeveloped characters. Lukegord has an admirable imagination, and he offers a terrifying, intriguing premise. Indeed, a story of haunted woods on Halloween night, filled with lunatics and murderers, feels like something one might see on the big screen. However, readers unfamiliar with Lukegord’s previous novel may have a hard time playing catch-up, although the actual plot here is thin. The narrative jumps from murder to murder, failing to build any suspense. It may be difficult for readers to become invested in characters that make only brief appearances before meeting gruesome deaths. The unfocused narrative also includes too many classic horror-story elements for such a short novel. Interested in a mummy’s curse that started 2,000 years ago “when [the mummy] was mummified in Egypt and possessed by an alien”? That’s only the beginning. Throw in ghosts, cannibals, wolves and leprechauns, and you’ve got yourself a mess.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499369250

Page Count: 90

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 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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