A delightful detective who more than earns and deserves her own series.

Cold-Blooded

In Regan’s (Hold Still, 2014, etc.) thriller, Philadelphia private investigator Jocelyn Rush takes the reins of a cold case from a terminal ex–homicide detective who needs help finding the killer before he dies.

The unsolved murder of teenager Sydney Adams has left former detective Augustus Knox’s life in ruins. Fourteen years later, his wife and job are gone, his daughter hates him, and his alcoholism has ravaged so much of his body that he has mere months to live. He seeks help from Jocelyn, a retired cop now with her own investigation firm. Knox is sure the murderer’s Cash Rigo, Sydney’s married high school coach, who’d likely had an affair with the girl, a dalliance seemingly confirmed by recently discovered photos. Sydney’s murder looks like a random shooting to Jocelyn, but Rigo definitely doesn’t appear innocent, especially with his rickety alibi. Jocelyn teams up with homicide cop Trent Razmus and brings the case in from the cold with news reports declaring new evidence (though it’s not necessarily true) and a fundraiser in Sydney’s honor. Jocelyn eventually links Rigo to a suspicious death and sees signs that he’s abusing his pregnant wife, Francine. But she may underestimate certain people’s desires to keep the truth hidden, which could put Jocelyn’s own life in danger. The protagonist is just as unyielding as she was in Regan’s previous novel: she’s not one to readily offer forgiveness, but her resolve is commendable. There’s little mystery to the story, as Jocelyn has few suspects and spends more time trying to extract a confession from Rigo than investigating the case. But Jocelyn’s life brims with hurdles. The tortured Knox, for one, is perpetually drunk, while Jocelyn fears that sister Camille, a former addict, may want to take away her 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, whom Jocelyn’s raised as her own. Jocelyn’s as tough as they come, but couple that with her motherly instincts, and it’s categorically endearing: “Why can’t I make cupcakes that look like Minions or a goddamn Disney Princess?” the typically foulmouthed private eye grumbles. Even if readers are a step or two ahead of Jocelyn in the investigation, her charisma is unmitigated and unending.

A delightful detective who more than earns and deserves her own series.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9967159-2-8

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Prodorutti Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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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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