A slow burn, aided by remarkable characters and an impressive ending.



In Faria’s debut thriller, a forensic accountant’s audit of an Atlanta company eventually unearths a conspiracy.

Investment fund Blue Creek Capital hires Nick Neville to audit tech company Cogvolve. It’s been a year since Blue Creek sank $1 billion into the firm, which still hasn’t produced any promised prototypes of “home appliances that are connected and controlled by artificial intelligence.” Nick finds nothing illicit while crunching the numbers, but he does discover some strange goings-on in and around Cogvolve. For starters, its lead researcher, Frederico Lanza, has inexplicably gone missing—and he later turns up dead. Also, protestors are decrying the company’s work on artificial intelligence, fearing that it will result in self-replicating machines. As Nick looks into Lanza’s death, he teams up with an anti-AI activist called “BabyKitty” (his preferred name as a “furry”). Along with Liliana Hofstein, the daughter of Lanza’s former college roommate, Nick and BabyKitty try to access the researcher’s encrypted flash drive, which is filled with stolen—and possibly incriminating—Cogvolve info. This necessitates a trip to Germany, where they have precarious run-ins with local authorities, as well as with members of the Illuminati. It’s clear that the trio has stumbled upon something more dangerous than they could have possibly imagined. The pace of Faria’s narrative is unhurried at first, as it meticulously details Nick’s failed relationships, as well as his past audits of crooked companies. However, the story slowly introduces an engrossing conspiracy, including flashbacks with famed historical figures, such as Nikola Tesla and Leonardo da Vinci. The mystery is occasionally convoluted; even the brilliant Nick can’t manage to tie together all the discoveries that the group makes. But the ultimate reveal, which boasts more than one effective twist, is a worthy payoff. Moments of humor help to lighten the complex narrative, particularly from BabyKitty, an extraordinary character who uses numerous, sometimes-surprising pseudonyms.

A slow burn, aided by remarkable characters and an impressive ending.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-145756-743-8

Page Count: 253

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 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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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.


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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