A character driven, action-filled thriller pitting commies against capitalists.

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MASTER PLAN

Russian sleeper agents inserted throughout the U.S. for a Communist takeover may have found their way into the Oval Office in Sweet’s debut political thriller.

Successful Wisconsin businessman Edward “Brookie” Brookside, wanting to leave behind a rancorous divorce and an ex-wife hoping for more money from the recent sale of his company, heads to Livingston, Montana. There, he meets and befriends the elderly Susan, who offers him a place to stay on her ranch. Susan also confides in Brookie, telling him an elaborate story involving her late Communist husband. Years ago, their sickly young son, Johnny, was dying. Russian agents somehow convinced Susan to care for another boy. Susan didn’t publicly discuss Johnny’s inevitable death and raised the boy, whom she calls JT, as her own. But Susan’s greatest concern is that JT is now the U.S. president. Brookie contacts business associate Robert Gabersen, a military man who runs a security firm, to help Susan, who’s constantly monitored by the Secret Service, as well as ranch hand Art, who is feeding info to the Russians. Getting Susan to safety is only part of the job; Robert and Brookie recruit others to ensure that the commies don’t activate sleeper cells and assimilate America into a new USSR. The novel is an intelligent thriller, one that takes place somewhere in between a hot and a cold war. The action taken is a stealthy infiltration of the country, specifically designed to avoid devastating nuclear conflict. As such, casualties on both sides aren’t from battles but a series of alleged accidents, such as a car wreck or what appear to be random explosions. The first half of the novel, which centers on Brookie and Susan, is better; it’s mostly a buildup for the latter half, but the relationship between the two, which Brookie equates with siblings, develops at a slow but worthwhile pace. When the team counterattacks the Russian agents who are hiding in Cabinet positions, there’s little suspense, as the good guys face few challenges. Most of their plans, including the capture of a high-ranking agent’s assistant, go off without a hitch. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to watch a war that’s being fought as quietly as possible.

A character driven, action-filled thriller pitting commies against capitalists.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1460222539

Page Count: 336

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2014

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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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