This tale offers a strong character study rather than a surprising murder mystery.

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HOUSE OF EIRE

From the Hillary Broome Novels series , Vol. 3

“Ghostwriter” takes on a dangerous new meaning when a woman honeymoons in Ireland and uncovers family closets full of skeletons.

The third in Gillam’s (House of Dads, 2014, etc.) Hillary Broome series finds the disgraced journalist-turned-ghostwriter in Ireland with her husband on a belated honeymoon after 10 years of marriage. Accompanying the couple are her precocious preteen daughter, Claire, and her elderly friend Sarah (whose life Hillary saved in the first book). Hillary is haunted by her mother’s desertion of the family when she was a young girl. While Hillary’s husband attends a gang conference, she intends to bone up on her roots and fill in gaps in her family history. She is also invited to be matron of honor for her friend Bridget Murphy. Bridget is embroiled in a public campaign to stop Dermot Connolly, “a West Coast Donald Trump” who’s rumored to have “his own version of an Irish Mafia,” from building a Disneyland-type amusement park unless it includes a memorial to the millions who were victims of the Great Irish Famine. “Pot O’Gold’s not for history lessons,” the developer threatens (and to be fair, he has a point). But Bridget will not be deterred, even as she begins receiving cautionary ghost dolls as a warning. Her fiance, Seamus, isn’t sure “she understood the forces she was up against.” But he does, as Connolly charges him with stopping Bridget’s public campaign against the park. When Bridget is inevitably murdered, Hillary becomes torn between continuing the historical research that got her friend killed and protecting her daughter and Sarah. “I know you’re going to do what you want, no matter what I say,” her husband capitulates. This is one of the intriguing heroine’s most formidable features. The book takes a bit of time to get going (and it’s pretty clear who the culprit is) but the momentum and the suspense build steadily. And the author has created a striking protagonist. Hillary remains devastated by Bridget’s death (“Guilt weighed on Hillary’s shoulders like a lead cape. She should have gotten to Bridget sooner. While she had a chance to help”). Gillam does violate the rule of Chekhov’s gun: Hillary states that she knows karate and can take care of herself, but readers never get to see her in action. Maybe next time.

This tale offers a strong character study rather than a surprising murder mystery.

Pub Date: June 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9858838-6-7

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Gorilla Girl Ink

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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