As addictive as a soap opera; a fun beach read—with a killer ending.



A grisly, senseless murder in a city on the Hawaiian island of Maui becomes the catalyst for new friendships in this debut novel.

Paia, the windsurfing capital of the world, is a quiet little piece of paradise on Maui until an unknown psychopath slits the throats of Mr. and Mrs. Okamoto, an elderly couple who run a small grocery store. The bodies are discovered early in the morning by Annie Boone, just as a hurricane is about to strike the island. Annie and her husband, George, are a spirited, retired couple, and their house serves as a collection point for the diverse characters who are brought together by the brutal slayings. There is Dewey McMaster, who was asleep in the rain across the street from the store when the murders were committed. As it turns out, Dewey has a secret—he is a lot more than the genial windsurfer locals have come to know over the last six months. And there are Layla and Kyle Richfield, who just arrived on Maui. Layla, an independently wealthy socialite, is still recovering from the traumatic still-birth of their first baby eight months earlier. Kyle and his partner, Kim Okamoto (yes, the son of the murdered couple), were in Hawaii to be honored at a pharmaceutical convention. Add into the mix Ned and Fiona Keller (he a local, semi-retired real estate agent, she a feisty Italian decorator) and the delightful, elderly Mr. Soo. This is less a murder mystery and more a vibrant narrative about new relationships (including a love interest) that is enhanced by copious amounts of shopping, decorating, and eating. In fact, the pace is so leisurely and the focus so thoroughly on the lives of Callahan’s eclectic ensemble cast that when the murderer strikes again the following year, readers, who by now have been lulled into mild complacency, will likely be left gasping. The unadorned prose provides the details of ordinary moments of daily life but with an enjoyable, glossy overlay that allows readers to indulge vicariously in the perks of an unlimited checkbook.

As addictive as a soap opera; a fun beach read—with a killer ending.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5434-5023-1

Page Count: 649

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 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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