Tends to meander but delivers flashes of violence that will satisfy action fans.

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Twin River III

A DEATH AT ONE THOUSAND STEPS

In Fields’ (Twin River II, 2014) latest thriller, security agent Wesley Palladin settles down and criminal forces prepare to further exploit innocent lives.

It’s 1980 in rural Pennsylvania where the Juniata and the Little Juniata rivers flow. On the Calvin property, in Polecat Hollow, pornographers Luther Cicconi and Max Wright keep high school teens Heather Wainwright and Alice Byrd prisoner in Winnebagos for later filming. Though wild pigs protect the property, the group hopes for backup muscle from Philadelphia mobster Don Scavone. Elsewhere in Polecat Hollow, high school sophomore Matt Henry has hired the security firm Have Weapons Will Travel for his father’s bank (see Twin River II), but Wesley Palladin confronts evil wherever he finds it and is more than willing to step in. Cicconi knows that the formidable Palladin—and his battle-ready friend, Vietnam veteran Gene Brooks—threatens his interests. Meanwhile, with Matt’s father supposedly on vacation, Palladin has moved into the Henrys’ guesthouse with Jane Romano, who’s hiding from her mobster husband, Caesar. To help Jane’s son Cody fit in, Matt tells him about the One Thousand Steps mountain trail that leads to the Virgin Heart lovers’ hideaway. There, couples can bless their future together. Yet for others, like the pregnant Becky, who’s stalked by the insane Abel Towers, the One Thousand Steps can mean doom. In the third outing to Twin River, Fields re-emphasizes the area’s signature eeriness with lines like, “Branches dropped low and pierced naked fingers through the mist.” Series motifs recur, including references to Catcher in the Rye and the traumas seen during the Vietnam War. Amid wandering plotlines, the author often inserts scenes of scantily clad girls rescued by vigilante gunfire, and fans of raw 1970s narratives (Deliverance and Straw Dogs) will find much to cheer. Occasionally, the prose offers humor (one gangster says, “I’ll kill you until it hurts”) and life lessons; Palladin tells Cody, “If everything’s given to you, you’ll be a spoiled teenager the rest of your life.” The finale brings brief closure while setting up the next installment.

Tends to meander but delivers flashes of violence that will satisfy action fans.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

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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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