A fast-paced thriller offering an outrageous joy ride through LA’s underbelly.

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BAD JUDGMENT

A dirty deal from the past and a series of chance encounters entangle a celebrity TV judge, his family, and others in a sordid web of crime.

Judge Jackson Hunsicker is the man America loves to hate. The feeling is mutual. From behind the bench of his courtroom set on TV’s Bad Judgment, “weekdays at 4:30,” Hunsicker seethes with loathing for the people his producers dredge up. He sees himself as a moral and superior being, despite leaving his girlfriend Roberta behind at a motel after firing her from his show and having previously accepted a bribe that sent an innocent man named Sloppy Borders to prison for murder. Unfortunately for Jackson, both these incidents are coming back to haunt him faster than he could have ever imagined. A series of surprising connections brings Roberta in contact with a lovesick psychopath named Earl and leaves Sloppy with insider information about Jackson’s wife, Sweetie Pie, and his drugged-up daughter, Arlene. Mysterious notes and silent phone calls lead Jackson to call on the help of a gritty PI named Arthur Spurgle, but it might not be enough to save him from the surprises and past mistakes that are coming to haunt him. Sweetie Pie describes the novel’s LA setting as a place where “everybody was equally vulgar and nobody had to apologize”—the perfect home for these characters. The twisted plot threads, casual drug use, and vulgarities might be a bit much for some readers, but Stone has an exemplary sense of timing that anyone could appreciate. He creates superb black comedy while turning jolts of violence, shocking inner dialogue, and numerous surprising reveals into well-executed punch lines. These are the same sleazy streets readers have visited with hard-boiled masters like James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler, filled with cartoonish character names, huge coincidences, brutal violence, and seedy secrets. However, in the same fashion as more contemporary work, like Quentin Tarantino films, Stone blends in a lighter tone and pays homage to the classics without getting stuck in imitation or parody.

A fast-paced thriller offering an outrageous joy ride through LA’s underbelly.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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