A somewhat dry but ultimately enjoyable espionage tale.



In this debut novel, an undercover American agent navigates a complicated web of threats and schemes in early World War II Morocco.

Having barely escaped Nazi-occupied France after an attack on his life, Drexel “Drex” Ellis settles in Tangier. The early 1940s are a time of simmering tensions and plotting in northern Morocco, with the unstable Spanish and French governments both maintaining control over various territories. Unusually for an American, Drex is recruited by MI6 to help stranded French pilots make their perilous way over the Strait of Gibraltar to the Rock of Gibraltar. But he decides to cut his heroics short when he marries Neva, a French war widow. Drex swaps his gun for a camera, pitching a story about Aryan-looking Berbers to National Geographic and traveling around the countryside to find the perfect shots. But an agent who’s told to keep his “eyes and ears open” will inevitably attract trouble. First, he meets Daryan al Zayani, a childhood friend of Neva’s who now commands a Moroccan force opposing Vichy France. With his savvy worldview, multicultural experiences, and influential family, Daryan appears to be another perfect MI6 recruit. Then there are figures Drex is less fortunate to encounter: Oskar Prahm, a member of the Gestapo who’s looting valuable art for Hermann Göring’s private collection; and Lt. Weingart, another Gestapo recruit, who tried to kill the protagonist back in Paris. The escapades steadily escalate, with Drex meeting more and more characters whose requests create more and more missions. If this is all beginning to sound like a list of names and backstories, it’s because the book itself often reads more like nonfiction than fiction. With such a tangle of cultures, events, and political circumstances, Wenman feels an understandable urge to contextualize. Issues arise when this leads to characters speaking in strained forms of over-explanation, or delivering gratuitous facts about everything from boating maneuvers and toy manufacturing to Moroccan ethnic groups. The end result is that the players generally feel less vivid than the surrounding scenery. Nevertheless, the author’s obvious love for this time and location shines through, steadily drawing readers into the endless intrigues and dire consequences of the era.

A somewhat dry but ultimately enjoyable espionage tale.

Pub Date: March 29, 2018


Page Count: 292

Publisher: Grey Boat Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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