An engaging legal thriller that brings to mind the intelligence and ambiguity of The Good Wife.

KEEP NO SECRETS

In the follow-up to Compton’s debut novel, Tell No Lies (2008), a formerly adulterous district attorney must defend himself in court when a 16-year-old girl wrongly accuses him of raping her.

Jack Hilliard thought he’d put the past behind him. It’s been four years since we last saw him, when he was elected St. Louis district attorney, cheated on his wife with fellow lawyer Jenny Dodson and got embroiled in a murder case as a result. But when he takes too long driving his son’s girlfriend, Celeste—who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jenny—home after she and his son come home drunk, he unwittingly opens a door to the events he’s been trying to forget. Although Jack parked by the side of the road for hours because Celeste insisted that her father would be angry if he found out she’d been drinking, Celeste accuses Jack of raping her. The accusation and resulting charges, along with Jenny’s mysterious reappearance, throw a wrench in Jack’s life. His wife grows distant, his son won’t talk to him, and he can’t quite bring himself to stay away from Jenny, even if only to help her try to figure out who has been sending her threatening letters. Nor can he figure out why Celeste is accusing him of something he didn’t do, though he suspects her father has been abusing her. Compton, a former lawyer with a sharp legal eye, is tuned into the moral ambiguities that can arise in a prosecution. Her strongest writing comes in the riveting courtroom scenes, and her understanding of her characters is equally nuanced. Readers will have a hard time not rooting for Jack, a compelling if sometimes frustrating man whose innocence is never in doubt, though his adeptness at lying to himself about his own morality and what he really wants with Jenny isn’t particularly admirable or attractive. Aside from an unrealistic climax that takes Compton away from her strengths, the absorbing story makes for a worthy sequel.

An engaging legal thriller that brings to mind the intelligence and ambiguity of The Good Wife.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0988793224

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Fresh Fork Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2013

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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