Starring an appealing gumshoe, this ambitious hybrid punches above its weight.



A sci-fi crime novel introduces a private eye up against revolutionary technology.

In near-future Los Angeles, people have implants that allow them to communicate telepathically with technology—though these are as susceptible to malware as their antecedent PCs—but some things are still done the old-fashioned way. Licensed private investigator Guy Rosen is all about the thrill of the chase, and he loves nothing so much as a good mystery. The sudden death of tech mogul Emilio Cassano, however, may be more than even Guy can handle. Emilio’s police-averse brother, Claud, hires Guy and his partners to prove that Emilio’s volatile son, Juan, is behind the murder. Guy prefers to keep an open mind, considering all of the Cassano family members and allowing himself to fall under Juan’s tragic magnetism. “We could have gone to the stars,” opines Juan of humanity’s follies, “but instead we invented a better pair of glasses.” When Juan unexpectedly kills a member of Guy’s team in cold blood, the gumshoe is forced to reconsider his position. The Cassano case goes much deeper than he realized, and Guy must follow it into the heart of humans’ evolving notions of reality and identity. Ingle (A God to Fear, 2016, etc.) writes in a sly, immersive prose that mixes detective novel grit with cyberpunk philosophizing. “Our obsession with the supremacy of the self has made our lives so competitive, difficult, and unbalanced that for our own identities to blur means that we can forget ourselves and rejoin the group,” muses one suspect, an acting teacher reprimanded for implanting his students with new identities. “It means freedom.” The rather formulaic first act quickly gives way to a much more intriguing story arc that owes more to Philip K. Dick than Raymond Chandler. Most of the characters still fit snugly into archetypes, but the world through which Ingle guides them is compelling enough to keep readers invested in their fates. The final act is a true page-turner, and the ending is as surprising as it is bold.

Starring an appealing gumshoe, this ambitious hybrid punches above its weight.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-943569-09-0

Page Count: 279

Publisher: City Starlight Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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