A light and whimsical sci-fi whodunit with a college campus backdrop.

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QUANTUM MURDER

In this sequel, a physics teacher becomes a prime suspect when a colleague’s death cues a new wave of crimes inspired by mental feats of quantum reality-bending.

Imagine if Janet Evanovich had given Stephanie Plum a science-teaching degree and you might have a handle on the series that began with Quantum Cop (2016). It’s been more than a year since young Boulder, Colorado, college instructor Madison Martin learned that with a little mind power, adrenaline, and physics, just about anyone can alter reality via “q-lapsing”: choosing a preferred outcome from quantum-uncertainty particle/wave duality. In practical terms, that means teleportation, transmutation of matter, telekinesis, and other wizardlike stuff (hard and fast ground rules of q-lapsing are weak at best). In the first book, a nationwide outbreak of “quantum crimes” resulted from a small number of Madison’s avaricious students misusing the talent. Now readers are told all of that has largely been forgotten or covered up (which seems almost as unlikely as q-lapse itself). Then a science colleague Madison didn’t even know turns up dead on campus, horribly murdered, and police suspect her. Meanwhile, Madison’s passionate faculty lover, Andro Rivas—whom she secretly taught q-lapse—has begun acting moody and distant without explanation. Is he a part of the crime? Are the undergraduate villains who were defeated in Quantum Cop somehow back again? Will the hunky new policeman with a stellar body who’s on the case exert a sexier gravitational pull on Madison than unpredictable Andro? There are some clever red herrings and feints here, if perhaps one too many trips to the well of characters and incidents from the first novel. Demarcations between rom-com silliness and the deadly serious are often as indistinct as the ones separating particles and waveforms. Smith (Kat Cubed, 2016, etc.) is a physicist in real life (following up the narrative with a short essay on quantum-mechanical weirdness), and she skillfully flavors the far-fetched stuff with references to such concepts as eigenvalues and the Bose-Einstein Condensate. The temptation is to say that things flip between the quirky and the quarky. But sci-fi fans who like their chick-lit thrillers blended with a Ph.D. should find the formula enjoyable.

A light and whimsical sci-fi whodunit with a college campus backdrop.

Pub Date: June 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9861350-4-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Quarky Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2017

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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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