A noteworthy, delightful tale of a deceptively complicated plan unraveling.

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The Crackerjacks

In Dupont’s debut thriller, miners want to hold onto gold they discover, but when others want a cut, it leads to kidnapping and death.

Mining supervisor Joe McDonald initially isn’t sure what to do with the gold vein that his son, Rod, stumbled upon in a Red Lake, Ontario, mine. But when the manager of mining company Knoxgold tells him that they’ll be cutting bonuses for workers, Joe makes a decision, and he, Rod, and Joe’s nephew, Simon, covertly extract the gold that they feel the company owes them. After Joe is injured by an accidental explosion in the mine, he’s forced to bring in Mat Montgomery, an industrial photographer and former miner. Joe must also find someone to process the ore and a buyer who won’t ask too many questions about the gold’s origins. He and his group keep mineralogist Jake Vance largely in the dark, but when Jake realizes the illegitimacy of the gold’s source, he quickly renegotiates his fee. Joe and his friends are suddenly faced with a dwindling cache and are forced to deal with a shady South American gold trader—as well as a pesky neighbor complaining of morning explosions. The group retains a firm grip on its profits, but when people end up dead and a surprise kidnapping occurs, it becomes clear that the men will be lucky just to stay alive. The novel painstakingly details the process as the original trio take out the gold, which provides a notable precursor to the ultimate collapse of the careful scheme. Joe, a widower, is smart and charming enough to make readers forget that he’s a thief. His love interest, office manager Kate Morrison, however, is a bit thin; she forgoes a payout so long as Joe supports her financially. Dupont drops in a few impressive shockers, including character deaths, none of which are murders. Some of the obstacles the group faces are refreshingly unexpected; at one point, for example, the miners must retrieve a corpse floating in open water so that its discovery won’t lead someone to a nearby stash of gold. The ending wraps up everything in a nice bow, but Dupont makes it abundantly clear that greed doesn’t lead to a happy resolution for everyone.

A noteworthy, delightful tale of a deceptively complicated plan unraveling.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 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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