Another exceptional account of heart-of-gold con artistry.

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THE FREEPORT ROBBERY

From the The Travelers series , Vol. 4

King’s (The Blackmail Photos, 2016, etc.) fourth outing with the Travelers, a husband-and-wife con artist team, sees them chasing stolen artwork.

The Travelers go from city to city, orchestrating elaborate cons that rip off deserving crooks. This time around, the couple poses as Ron and Nicole Carter, in the city of Charles Bay. Their latest target is Pat McCall, a corrupt information-technology professional who deals in credit card numbers. After sleeping with him, Nicole tries to get him to drink some spiked water, so that he’ll pass out and she can lift data from his laptop. McCall doesn’t fall for this ruse, however, and Ron must intervene to salvage their identities. The 40-something Nicole blames herself for the failed con, believing that she’s no longer the femme fatale that she once was. Soon she and Ron are on a fresh con facilitated by Aaron Rickover, an insurance investigator. He informs them that a gold, jeweled casket that was on its way to the Peter Damascus Sculpture Museum in Los Angeles has been stolen and placed in a “freeport” vault, outside of the reach of U.S. customs. The museum offers the Travelers a $150,000 finder’s fee to obtain it. The Carters do manage to collect the masterpiece, only to have a rival squad of thieves unexpectedly engage them in gunplay at an airport. In this latest go-round with the Travelers, readers should already be accustomed to author King’s casual excellence, particularly when it comes to character development. In the first half, for example, he ably reestablishes a psychological rift between his protagonists when Ron suggests that they adopt a third partner—a younger woman whom Nicole could train to seduce targets. King then cleverly flips this dynamic, though, when they eventually con a cultured man whose wife is near death in a hospital, and whom Nicole allows to emotionally cling to her “as tightly as the last piece of flotsam from the wreckage of his life.” Overall, King delivers a solidly written, self-contained thriller that also sets the stage for his cons’ return.

Another exceptional account of heart-of-gold con artistry.

Pub Date: April 26, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Blurred Lines Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2017

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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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