The authors hit this one out of the park; a highly recommended mystery.

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CANARYTOWN

CITY OF GRIEF

In this debut Chicago-set crime novel, police nickname a brutal serial killer Slugger because he beats his victims with a “bat-like weapon” and leaves a folded, collectible baseball card.

Slugger preys on hookers on the South Side of the city. Detective Kyle McNally and his longtime partner, Sam Weller, investigate the third murdered woman found in Canarytown, “the tavern district of south-central Chicago.” Looking for a lead, Kyle reaches out to informant Eddie Caffey, who “could smell a U.S. Grant from a block away.” But Eddie’s now skittish to talk because he says he saw another informant take a bullet to the head by a dirty cop whose identity isn’t clear. Splotchy-faced Cmdr. Alfred “Al” Rouse, with a broad nose featuring “a small vertical cleft that reminded Kyle of a miniature woman’s ass,” pressures the detective to solve the serial killer case. When another mangled corpse is found, Kyle visits the morgue to talk to the stone-faced but shapely legged county medical examiner, Dr. Mykel Hartley, about the time of death and the mutilation of the body. If it’s the same murderer, he broke from his modus operandi in several ways, including placing the victim in a cemetery far from Canarytown. Detective Liz Dumont—a petite, dedicated “dynamo” who’s “easy on the eyes, too”—mulls if there could be a copycat killer. McCullough and Boydston get a lot of credit for not portraying Kyle as the flawless hunk on the force. Although described as handsome, with a “body that looked well-tended,” he can be impatient and short-tempered. The divorced bourbon drinker doesn’t look for love, but it’s enjoyable—and not overdone—when he finds it. More sensitive readers may balk at the descriptions of mutilated bodies. But fans of gritty crime stories and methodical police work will find the book a page-turner, complete with notable characters, dialogue, and descriptions (“He guessed her at six foot two and skinny as a Ball Park frank”). Names and depictions of Chicago attractions and streets are accurate, with the exception that Canarytown is most likely a stand-in for Canaryville, a community on the city’s South Side that was originally a largely Irish neighborhood.

The authors hit this one out of the park; a highly recommended mystery.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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