A promising storyline that falls victim to disappointing writing and editing.

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The Fragrance Shed By A Violet

In Wilder’s debut novel, a respected Houston cardiologist is convicted of killing her mother with an unapproved drug, but some begin to question whether she’s actually guilty of the crime.

Dr. Lindsey McCall successfully modifies a digitalis drug that she hopes will save the lives of patients with heart failure, including her own mother. But when Ann McCall dies, Houston police receive an anonymous tip claiming that Lindsey used the drug to kill her. Officials exhume the body, find the unapproved medication in her system, and try Lindsey for murder. She’s convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. The story draws the attention of newspaper reporter Kate Townsend, who plans an investigative series titled “Murder in the Texas Medical Center.” During her research, she’s disturbed to learn that Lindsey’s older sister, a nurse named Paula Livingston, testified against her and is pleased that Lindsey’s in Huntsville Prison. The new chief warden, Rich Jansen, also finds himself interested in Lindsey’s case—and in her. The author offers a solid premise and a fair amount of suspense, and some of her characters—particularly Jansen and Lindsey’s friend Julie—are quite well-drawn. Unfortunately, these good points are overshadowed by the fact that many sentences are awkward and amateurish, such as, “His curiosity had been piqued by these last remarks of Lindsey about her family.” The author’s use of stiff, academic language is another weakness; for example, Lindsey is said to have “persuaded her chemistry and biology teachers to support her determination to alter the digitalis molecule in ways that would optimize its inotropic or strengthening effects on the heart.” The reporter’s subplot seems particularly outlandish, as her poorly written articles win not one, but three Pulitzer Prizes. The novel could also have used a stronger copy edit to catch spelling errors (“tenants” instead of “tenets,” “coy” instead of “koi”).

A promising storyline that falls victim to disappointing writing and editing.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-163063261

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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