Full of red herrings, exciting locations, and meddling strangers, this multifaceted mystery shows how mishaps happen when...

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A BACKCOURT

When an accidental death becomes an obsession, a grieving mother takes the law into her own hands in this novel.

Lacy Brogdon has gone by many names: Lacy Larson, Marilyn Little, and most recently Olivet Wendell. Using a fake ID, the former Mrs. Wendell takes her husband’s money and flees to New York, determined to track down Orella Bookings, the woman who killed her son in a hit-and-run accident years ago but was never caught. In short, punchy chapters, the hunt takes place between July 25 and Aug. 4, 2008, and follows multiple characters to Miami, New York City, Las Vegas, and Peach Grove, Georgia. Orella has never met Lacy, but she already knows she’s in her cross hairs. Her friend Kathy Stockton—along with a team of police officers, a computer expert, and a private detective—was in the middle of investigating Lacy for a murder when she learned of her plan. But crafty Lacy always seems to be one step ahead of them. The large cast of characters is slightly unwieldy, but the players connect in surprising ways—from Grover Crawley, a coldhearted pimp, to Celestine North, a party girl whose catchphrase is “I’ll never go south on you, baby”—and eventually they lead to Lacy. Not all of the characters are likable in Allis’ (A Moving Screen, 2016, etc.) lively tale, but they are complex: Rajha, a mysterious hit man with no last name, learned to kill from his abusive foster father. Rochester Miller, acting chief medical examiner, has a porn habit and a chip on his shoulder but is surprisingly reverent toward the bodies he examines. Even Lacy has a soft side—her love for her son blinds her to his serious flaws, and she uses her Christian faith to justify her actions. And Orella always seems to have a drink in her hand, even when she knows she needs to keep her wits about her, which gives her more depth.

Full of red herrings, exciting locations, and meddling strangers, this multifaceted mystery shows how mishaps happen when there’s more than one plan.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 319

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2018

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

DEVOLUTION

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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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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