Sam and her boyfriend, former policeman Reece, are now engaged and living in Toronto, but he finds himself at loose ends in...

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Red Rover, Perdition Games

Private eye Sam McNamara is back for a third adventure in Fraser’s (Skully: Perdition Games, 2015, etc.) new thriller, investigating a crime that hits close to home and forces her to suspect her own friends.

Sam and her boyfriend, former policeman Reece, are now engaged and living in Toronto, but he finds himself at loose ends in the city. He misses the rural life and feels out of place among Sam’s friends, with the exception of one: Abby, a ballet dancer whose girlfriend, Talia, is overseas with the Canadian Armed Forces. But after Abby is found dead after slitting her wrists in a bathtub—and also found to be four months pregnant—some of Sam’s friends suspect Reece is the father, as he was one of the men she knew best. Meanwhile, Sam’s psychiatrist friend, Roger, is embroiled in an affair with former patient Brenda; her husband, Graham, is brutally murdered on the same day that Roger is visiting her. As Sam and Reece investigate Graham’s death, they’re not sure whether to suspect Roger, who seems to be hiding something; one of Brenda and Graham’s teenage children, whose stories don’t add up; or Graham’s ex-wife, who spent several years in prison for murdering her own mother. Sam and Reece must try to untangle the truth from the lies even as Sam’s friends remain hostile toward Reece. Overall, Fraser crafts a strong mystery that sweeps readers along with the two well-developed main characters. Sam’s and Reece’s personal issues and friendships are just as compelling as the question of who committed Graham’s murder. Every twist, turn, and moment of misdirection will keep readers guessing, but these elements never feel overly telegraphed or intentionally misleading. The story also moves along at a brisk pace and ends on a dark yet satisfying note that will leave readers eager to find out what happens next in the series.

Pub Date: June 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9947742-3-1

Page Count: 428

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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