An often engaging thriller series installment that’s worth a read.

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Doppelganger

From the Rudy Styne Quadrilogy series , Vol. 2

Seifer (Rasputin’s Nephew, 2016, etc.) gives readers two stories for the price of one in this sequel, set in 2016 and during the first world war. 

The present-day tale features Rudy Styne, Modern Times Magazine’s ace reporter. He’s investigating a series of high-profile computer attacks and trying to figure out just who a hacker named “CodeBreaker Morant” is, and more crucially, who “NTroodr,” a sinister cracker, is; a hacker, readers learn, is usually harmless, but a cracker definitely isn’t. NTroodr may be planning to crash the entire World Wide Web and time is short. Rudy thinks that Ashley La Polla, a computer genius at MIT, may be Morant, but then she winds up dead. Rudy also spots a fellow named Rolf Linzman who, though a few years older, could be Rudy’s identical twin; somehow, Rudy and Rolf are related, but how? Later, Rudy’s elderly Uncle Abe shows up at Rudy and his fiancee Chessie’s wedding; he’s tied to a parallel story that takes readers to Germany at the turn of the last century. In it, Elias Maxwell has a burgeoning company called Maxwell-Bavarian Machine Works. His younger brother, Simon, is a first-class mechanic who’s enamored of this new invention: a flying machine. A decade later, during World War I, Simon finds himself dogfighting with, and killing, men who were his brothers in the early aeronautic fraternity. The story behind Rudy’s mysterious parentage, among other resolutions, is held over until the forthcoming third installment, Crystal Night, which will strike some readers as clever and others as unsportsmanlike. This book could have used a stronger edit to trim it down and catch errors (a very old man isn’t automatically an “antiquarian,” for example, and the canal waters of Venice, Italy, are likely not “effervescent”). But the author’s depiction of the early aviation era is thorough and interesting, and his handling of Simon’s torment is truly wrenching as the character’s inner conflict—exacerbated by the enthusiastic spirit of his morally challenged mates, who see downing planes as exciting sport—drives him to tragedy.

An often engaging thriller series installment that’s worth a read.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-931261-15-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doorway Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 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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