The Sense of Death

In Dalrymple’s debut thriller, a woman capable of sensing spirits might be unknowingly putting herself in danger when she gets close to exposing a murderer.
Ann Kinnear can’t converse with ghosts, but her ability to sense a lingering spirit, or “essence,” is enough for her to work as a consultant for police in a missing person case. But it’s a job for client Mavis Van Dyke that catches a killer’s attention. Mavis, who wants to live in a haunted house, hires Ann to walk through prospective homes. Ann is so disturbed by an angry spirit at a Philadelphia house that she won’t even go inside. When Detective Joe Booth hears of this, he asks Ann to return to the residence, hoping to validate his belief that the seller, Biden Firth, murdered his wife, Elizabeth. Biden learns about Ann, too, and he starts obsessively keeping an eye on her and her brother/business partner, Mike, to ensure that Ann doesn’t help the detective solve his case. Dalrymple’s novel features a protagonist who’s amiably reclusive—she’s none too happy that a History Channel special gets her recognized in public—but also relatable, especially considering her endearing relationship with Mike, who, even as a child, fully believed in her spirit sensing. Ann’s special talent is distinctive and remarkable; though people usually call her a psychic, she can’t directly communicate with spirits (a fact that is repeated a few too many times) and instead senses them via glowing lights, sounds or smells, e.g., the scent of a dead man’s pipe tobacco. Though Ann sees herself as a “freak,” she isn’t portrayed as such. The story touches on her affinity for Garrick, who relates to Ann by sharing a similar ability. While Mike and Ann’s separation from the ongoing murder case helps build suspense (Biden has the advantage since they don’t know what he looks like), the investigation gets a dramatic punch from Joe’s visits with Elizabeth’s grieving mother, Amelia, as well as updates on Biden’s daughter, 2-year-old Sophia, whom the father often neglects. The book closes with adequate resolution and is bolstered by an intense scene with at least one life in peril.
A frighteningly meticulous villain and a formidable protagonist will have readers breezing through the pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615919775

Page Count: 324

Publisher: William Kingsfield Publishers

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?