An unexpected treat of a detective novel with a strong heroine, making Ross a name to look out for.

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The Daemoniac

From the A Dominion Mystery series , Vol. 1

A mystery invokes New York City streets, serial killer thrills, and the creator of Sherlock Holmes himself.

Brutal murders, perverse Latin inscriptions, and fingerprints seemingly burned into victims’ throats would scream “demon” to many in the sweltering streets of 1888 New York, but Harrison Fearing Pell has other ideas. Harry and her friend and assistant, John Weston, believe in what they can see, what they can prove—and in taking advantage of an opportunity. While her older sister, Myrtle, is a consulting detective of some renown, Harry is only 19, with few accomplishments. So, when a case reeking of blood and superstition walks into the office while Myrtle is away, Harry sees it as a perfect chance to prove herself. And as tension and fear over the killer known as “Mr. Hyde” rise throughout the city, the prize only seems to become sweeter. But as Harry and John chase leads through both the most dismal slums and glimmering boulevards the city has to offer, they come across more and more situations that force them to question if they—an armchair detective and a medical student—are in over their heads. And even if they have the confidence and encouragement of Harry’s uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, one wrong move might mean death—or worse. While the clever mystery is reason enough to keep pages turning, the novel’s writing remains its greatest asset. Employing a tone that affects the style of Victorian literature and the Conan Doyle stories, but without the stiffness readers might associate with older fiction, the prose is a genuine delight (At one point, Harry observes: “Everywhere, everywhere, were people, louder, looser and yes, happier than I was used to. Handsome and ugly, young and old, rich and poor. Dressed by Saville Row tailors, and sporting rags that made my own outfit seem like finery”). Furthermore, the characters conjure Holmes and Watson without belaboring the point or adopting a sense of smug superiority. Ross (Blood of the Prophet, 2016, etc.) provides two endlessly charming sleuths, and Harry’s womanhood adds new depth to familiar ground. All in all, there’s an impressive amount of detail and care packed into these pages, not only in references to the Holmes canon, but also in inventive storytelling and colorful portraiture of 19th-century New York.

An unexpected treat of a detective novel with a strong heroine, making Ross a name to look out for.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 281

Publisher: Acorn Independent Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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