A psychological thriller about an enigmatic killer that’s both inventive and unflinching.

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Comorbid

A GRIPPING PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER

A man struggles to manage the dark trauma of his youth, and the havoc it continues to wreak on his adulthood.

When James Davis was a young teen, he suffered under the abusive tyranny of his father, Frank, an irredeemable alcoholic. James’ father eventually turned his anger toward his wife, Brenda, and he finally killed her in a fit of rage. But then a mysterious man charged into the house and strangled Frank to death. James’ rescuer, Alistair, demanded that his part in the tragic affair be kept a secret, and the teen obliged. Years later, James is lost in shiftless ennui, stuck in a dead-end job, and utterly alone. He finally makes a friend at the gym, Mark, who convinces him to see a therapist, the young and beautiful Natalie Pruitt. For the first time in years, James feels a tinge of hope that he might be able to turn his life around, and find a sliver of animating purpose. But then, Alistair inexplicably shows up, and aggressively inserts himself into James’ life. It’s not clear whether Alistair intends to help James repair his broken existence out of some avuncular impulse, or use him as an instrument for his own twisted ends: “Because of a moment in time of their shared past, Alistair was a part of him, for better or worse, and James knew he would never truly be free.” But James is scared for his life, and for the lives of those close to him, as suddenly there seems to be a killer at large in this previously sleepy Maryland suburb. Debut author Logsdon adeptly captures James’ troubled childhood, intermittently flashing back to scenes from it, while also including narrative vignettes depicting the volatile relationship between his parents. At one point, the young James muses about Frank’s cruelty: “The man knew how to make his verbal assaults cut like a knife,” right in Brenda’s “most vulnerable places.” This is a sepulcher tale, and squeamish readers may struggle with some of the grim details, vividly conveyed, about abuse and murder. But the author slowly, chillingly leads readers to a suspenseful conclusion that makes some forbearance of the book’s gloomier aspects well worth it. This is an unpredictable and heart-pounding mystery.

A psychological thriller about an enigmatic killer that’s both inventive and unflinching. 

Pub Date: May 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5307-7652-8

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2016

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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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