An enticing fourth series installment thanks to an engaging cast.



From the Maggie McDonald Mystery series

In Feliz’s (Dead Storage, 2017, etc.) murder mystery, amateur sleuth and professional organizer Maggie McDonald comes to the aid of her best friend, whom the cops suspect of murder.

Maggie’s skills as an organizer include prepping for emergencies—for example, the spreading wildfire in the vicinity of Silicon Valley, where her family’s home is located. But it turns out that her friend, real estate agent Tess Olmos, needs her even more. Tess’ husband, Patrick, initially appears to have died from an accidental fall. However, a bullet wound in his shoulder, among other signs, points to a violent assault. When police later find a gun on a workbench in the Olmoses’ garage, Tess becomes a person of interest. Maggie, however, is suspicious, as no one recalls seeing the gun there before. She’s been involved in murder investigations in the past (in previous installments of this series), and she embarks on a mission to clear her friend’s name, starting by questioning other suspects, including Tess’ assistant and Patrick’s running partner. Maggie has plenty of help, particularly from her cop pal, Jason Mueller, who’s not officially working on Patrick’s homicide case. But other troubles soon arise involving local drug cartels, and, later, Maggie’s two sons disappear—along with Tess’ son. Feliz’s mystery features myriad appealing characters, most of them returning from previous books in the series; Jason is an always-reliable ally, as is his war-veteran husband, Stephen. Even Maggie’s pets have distinct personalities—golden retriever Belle, for instance, repeatedly nudges people with her nose for comfort or attention. The mystery plot is lightweight, and Maggie’s suspicions of others seem based more on her own impressions than any real evidence. But the whip-smart amateur detective does show considerable skill, particularly when it comes to organizing; at one point, she wisely anticipates and prepares for neighbors arriving at the Olmoses’ home to support newly widowed Tess. And Maggie’s charm knows no bounds, even when she’s interviewing an especially loathsome man: “I squelched my desire to kick him in the shins, or worse.”

An enticing fourth series installment thanks to an engaging cast.

Pub Date: July 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5161-0529-8

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Lyrical Underground

Review Posted Online: July 10, 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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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.


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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