Another page-turner featuring a twisty plot, a strong female lead, and some helpful painting tips for aspiring artists.

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DEATH AT CROOKED CREEK

From the Jessie O'Bourne Art Mystery series , Vol. 2

Artist and author Cherry (Death on Canvas, 2016) returns with a unique mix of murder, art, and a hefty supply of suspects in this second Jessie O’Bourne mystery.

Dead bodies seem to turn up whenever Jessie returns to Montana. She and her enormous, charmingly privileged cat Jack (aka “Butter Tub”) have been spending a lot of time on the road, attending art showings and gallery meet-and-greets. She was looking forward to some downtime when a friend asked her to fill in as a guest artist at the annual art expo in Crooked Creek, Montana, where locals have been gossiping about a number of strange deaths. They started six months ago, when teenage Adele Nielson was mysteriously shot and killed while driving her father’s tractor on their farm. But Jessie doesn’t know about any of this as she organizes her display and sets up materials for her oil painting classes. The morning after her arrival, though, someone leaves small toy tractors outside her hotel room door. Then she discovers a dead body stuffed into a storage compartment of the Hawk, her trusty motor home. As a result, Jessie is once again pulled into a dangerous murder investigation, and the local sheriff considers her a suspect. Cherry packs her novel with so many characters that readers may find it difficult to keep them all straight in the beginning. More than a handful are hiding one secret or another, which provides the tale with a plethora of red herrings. Although the mystery itself is engaging, much of the fun comes from Cherry’s detailed portraits of the eclectic, quirky creative types that inhabit the art world. For instance, the author shows how Jessie sees everything as a painting in progress: “Glen’s [bald] head became a tiny, empty, round canvas. In her mind, she painted a small robin’s nest on that bare space, the wiry hairs surrounding the spot becoming woven twigs encircling three blue eggs.”

Another page-turner featuring a twisty plot, a strong female lead, and some helpful painting tips for aspiring artists.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72459-299-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2018

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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