This bracing thriller features an intriguing cast and a realistic plot.

BLOWOUT

In this sequel, an oil company succeeds despite a dysfunctional chairman, until someone kills him.

The year is 1981. More than a decade has passed since the murderous Captain Courageous stalked Randy Capra halfway around the world. Randy now lives outside Lorain, Ohio, with his wife, Monique, and their three children. He’s the vice president of operations for the DeVille Petroleum Company. When one of its oil wells in Caddo County, Oklahoma, erupts in flames, two DPC workers die instantly while four are critically injured. It takes a week to gain control of the accident site and yet company chairman Dick DeVille isn’t thankful for Randy’s expertise and leadership. He instead complains that Randy took DPC’s plane to the burning well. But Randy knows that the wrong size blowout preventer, suggested by Dick, caused the accident. Company president Bobby Wendover defends Randy’s actions while Dick threatens to fire him. Later, at the DPC Christmas party, organized by Axel Eriksen, liquor flows freely and stripper Marilyn Moore makes the rounds. After the party, when cleaner Graciela Estevez enters the chairman’s office, she finds Dick at his desk with his pants down and his head bashed in. She calls Randy, the only employee she knows who speaks any Spanish. The author revisits his trouble-magnet protagonist of Hunted (2012) at a more secure place in his life, a family man at the dawn of the Reagan era. Wood’s (The Hoo-Li Chronicles, 2019, etc.) knowledge of the oil industry gives the plot weight, as in the line “Dick had told him what specifications his buddies in Houston had suggested, insisting he save money by using a ‘normal’ blowout preventer.” This sequel is also structured more confidently than its predecessor, with richly drawn characters, like the dogged and sympathetic Lt. Jack Grueden, thundering through a traditional whodunit. Still, “sex” remains the operative word at the DPC office because there are enough extramarital liaisons and related fights to win over fans of the soap opera Dallas. While the murder weapon is slightly telegraphed early on, the killer is skillfully hidden until the finale.

This bracing thriller features an intriguing cast and a realistic plot.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-387-33585-5

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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

SUMMER ISLAND

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

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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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