HOPE

Deighton artfully fills in more blanks in the long-running saga of British espionage agent Bernard Samson, the protagonist in two earlier trilogies and the featured attraction of this sequel to Faith (1995). It's the fall of 1987, and Bernard has taken arms against a sea of troubles. His wife Fiona (a fellow spy)—now back from East Germany, where she penetrated the Stasi as a sham defector—is behaving oddly, and her return has obliged him to dump Gloria, a luscious Hungarian operative with whom he's been making soul- satisfying whoopee. Meanwhile, Bernard's brother-in-law George Kosinski has gone missing. Married to Fiona's sister Tessa (apparently killed in Berlin during the former's flight back to the West), George is a wealthy, first-generation Englishman of affairs. His disappearance triggers alarms and excursions at London Central, where Bernard's Oxbridge-educated masters decree that the suspected runaway must be located. With inept assistance from his twitty but ruthlessly ambitious boss, Dickey Cruyer, Bernard tracks his quarry through the back alleys of Zurich and Warsaw to a down-at-heels estate near the Polish/Russian frontier, where the elusive George still has family. Presented with grisly physical evidence of George's death, the credulous Dickey calls a halt to the search. Once back in the UK, Bernard (who puts no stock in the official version of George's fate) is reassigned to his old stamping ground in Berlin, where the opposition takes its best shot at him. Recalled to London after George's been spotted alive and well in the homeland of his parents, world-weary Bernard goes back to winter-bound Poland to oversee a daring extraction designed to bring him and a suspected turncoat home free. Vivid, class-conscious characters whose fond pageants play out amidst the workaday deceits of the intelligence game, plus plot twists and violent action galore: one of the more absorbing entries in Deighton's ongoing series. (First printing of 70,000; Literary Guild alternate selection; $175,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-017696-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1995

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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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