A well-paced, attention-grabbing mystery that explores universal health care.

SET APART

A debut thriller shines a spotlight on the potential for abuse in a national health care system.

McCall’s book centers on two siblings. Gordon Sand is a missing-persons detective in the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department’s Second District. Ada Sand, his sister, is an information systems specialist at the Department of Health and Human Services, much like the author herself was. Ada’s star has been on the rise during the preparations for the national health system called Americare, a priority of the new U.S. president, Dale Durham. The siblings split their time between Washington and bucolic Dorsey, Pennsylvania, where their doctor brother, David, and his family settled, next door to the Benedicts, a German Baptist clan. But Gordon’s and Ada’s worlds are destined to collide. That’s because Americare favors the rich and powerful through its tier system. Even worse, Americare’s leaders contract with an ex-soldier to kidnap well-matched citizens for body parts in order to keep sick Tier 1 VIPs alive. Based on the techniques used by this “Taker,” Gordon sees connections among seemingly random abductions, although Ada and his partner, Scottie Davenport, are skeptical. Then the Taker targets a Sand family member. Will Gordon and company expose Americare’s secrets? Using the guise of a mystery, McCall asks hard questions about the specifics of a national health care plan. Will it be equally available to all citizens? Or will those who are considered to have contributed more to society gain priority access? The author examines the latter option by creating a nightmare scenario in which ordinary people are sacrificed to keep the mighty and their families alive. Those just plain folks also end up waiting long months for “elective” surgeries that could enhance their quality of life. McCall has created likable characters in the extended Sand family as well as a nasty group of conniving health care bureaucrats. Particularly intriguing are the Benedicts, who live a simple lifestyle much like the Amish. Ultimately, McCall’s novel is an enjoyable blend of thriller, character study, and think piece.

A well-paced, attention-grabbing mystery that explores universal health care.

Pub Date: March 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9845589-4-0

Page Count: 296

Publisher: JJ Publishers

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 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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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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