An uneven kid-detective tale with an appealing setting.

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THE GREAT MEDITERRANEAN CHEESE HEIST

A JACOB WHEELER MYSTERY

In this middle-grade novel, a boy helps his grandfather solve a mystery involving stolen Italian cheeses while on a cruise.

It’s the first day of summer vacation, and 12-year-old Jake Wheeler has plans to ride his new bike at the BMX course. But it turns out that he’ll have to wait, because Jake’s grandfather, “a world-renowned detective,” has to work on a case involving cheese theft for the Italian police. He can’t accompany Jake’s grandmother on their Mediterranean trip, so Jake’s mother volunteers the boy as a traveling companion. After leaving Montreal, Jake and his grandma sail on the cruise ship Canberra, due to stop in “Spain, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, and Gibraltar.” Also on the trip is his second cousin Millie, a know-it-all English girl with a titled father. Jake must admit that the ship and his room are cool even if Millie is annoying and Granny limits his smartphone “screen time.” However, Jake finds real excitement when he stumbles onto clues related to his grandfather’s case. After Grandpa learns that there’s stolen cheese aboard ship (from Granny’s photo of a wine-and-cheese event), he thrills Jake by asking him to help him investigate: “keep your eyes and ears open.” While playing tourist at beautiful locations, Jake, with Millie’s help, tracks down clues and tries to avoid bad guys. In her often humorous series starter, debut author Malmqvist depends too much on coincidences; it’s hard to believe that Grandpa’s stolen-cheese investigation happens to intersect perfectly with Jake’s vacation. The young sleuth also conveniently chances upon the most important clues; for example, he just happens to see an important crate being delivered, is woken by a voice beneath his window, and spots a cellphone on a cheese table. Granny’s characterization also falters; she’s said to be “quirky” and has bright-pink streaks in her silver hair, but she often acts as a wet blanket, presumably to introduce plot obstacles. Nevertheless, Jake is intelligent, bold, and resourceful, and the Mediterranean ports of call make an engaging backdrop for the mystery.

An uneven kid-detective tale with an appealing setting.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5255-3272-6

Page Count: 183

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2019

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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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