A relatively restrained, old-style yarn of supernatural retribution and redemption that may leave gore-hounds feeling a bit...

Cajun Justice

A batch of shirts bearing deadly serpents, obtained unethically by a shady businessman, spawns terror at a retailer convention in New Orleans.

In his supernatural novel, Hadley (Origins, 2015) introduces Alex “Jensen” McIntyre, a Northern businessman headed for a retail trade show in New Orleans. By chance, he winds up using a filling station deep in the Louisiana swamps and encounters a Cajun crone named Mothe’ Moses. Despite her remoteness from civilization, she shows Jensen an inexplicable inventory hidden in her hovel—boxes of high-quality cotton shirts emblazoned with frightful, beyond-photorealistic imprints of venomous snakes. Although admonished by Mothe’ Moses not to cheat her with a bad check, Jensen is tempted to do exactly that, and he takes the shirts to his business convention, where they are, naturally, an attention-getter. But, as Mothe’ Moses warned, dire consequences soon ensue, with victims going “into some kind of catatonic state,” appearing dead but eventually showing some “muted signs of life.” The local medics start to suspect some kind of fearful epidemic. But Jensen’s friend and colleague Bob (also arriving in town on business and attempting to restore his cooling marriage) realizes that the cursed garments and Mothe’ Moses spill over from scientific reality into the realm of voodoo mysticism. Unfortunately, this book shares a title with a reality TV show and a handful of B-movies; it’s actually a tastefully wrought paranormal tale with some vivid passages of Louisiana bayou description. Depending on their thirst for mayhem, genre fans may be pleased (or annoyed) that the author refuses to slather the material in shocking bloodshed or Deep South drive-in, horror-flick culture along the lines of regional efforts from Joe R. Lansdale or even Stephen King. One might even characterize the story as a spiritual one (The Shack II: The Revenge, anybody?), except that evangelical intent is not obvious (although moral instruction is). The voodoo element gets handled respectfully rather than pulpishly, and a hint at Mothe’ Moses’ true identity remains a nice touch. But the author’s decision to tell the story using multiple first-person narrators (and all in fairly uniform voices) tends to telegraph the fates of a lot of characters in advance—defanging the suspense, one might say.

A relatively restrained, old-style yarn of supernatural retribution and redemption that may leave gore-hounds feeling a bit disappointed.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60645-160-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: BookWise Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2016

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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