Served up with explicit gore that is not for the faint-hearted, but even more haunting than it is shocking as the author...

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THE DEVIL OF NANKING

A superb third thriller from Hayder (The Treatment, 2001, etc.), who sends a troubled young Englishwoman to Tokyo in search of evidence about a half-century-old war crime.

For reasons she initially only hints at, Grey is obsessed with the 1937 Nanking massacre, a monthlong orgy of atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army on Chinese civilians. Learning that a Chinese man who witnessed those atrocities possesses filmed footage of one particularly monstrous event, she sets out to confront Shi Chongming in Tokyo, where he is a visiting professor of sociology. The story alternates between Grey’s odyssey in Tokyo’s darker corners and Shi Chongming’s bitter diary of the ten months leading up to the Nanking massacre. Grey hooks up with Jason, a creepy American expat with a morbid sexual interest in violence, who gets her a job as a hostess at a nightclub. There, she meets Fuyuki, an elderly, ailing gangster whose terrifying “Nurse” fortifies him with a mysterious medicine. It turns out Shi Chongming desperately wants to know what this medicine is; he promises to show Grey the film if she finds out, but warns her that Fuyuki and his Nurse are exceedingly dangerous. Hayder ratchets up the tension as Grey gets closer to the gruesome secret of Fuyuki’s medicine, and as Shi Chongming’s diary chronicles his ordeal in Nanking. But this isn’t just a nail-biter; her heroine is a damaged woman whose emotional and physical scars are gradually revealed to have grim links to the ultimate atrocity Shi Chongming witnesses in Nanking. As the narrative bloodily approaches a final, horrific pair of revelations, you realize that finding out what happened doesn’t answer the real question here. What Grey and Shi Chongming, who have both ignorantly precipitated unspeakable tragedies, desperately need to know is: Is there any difference between ignorance and evil if the consequences are the same? The answer brings scant comfort to either of them.

Served up with explicit gore that is not for the faint-hearted, but even more haunting than it is shocking as the author urgently addresses basic, agonizing existential issues.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8021-1794-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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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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