Though bumpy at times, this welcome addition to the crime-fiction genre features a refreshingly new type of heroine.

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INTERSECTION

In this law enforcement procedural much in the vein of William J. Caunitz and Bill Pronzini, two FBI agents are assigned to protect a congressman who’s getting threatening letters.

Healy’s taut debut novel launches immediately into the action: FBI agents Alex Toles (a female) and Brian Fallon are assigned to investigate anonymous threatening letters being sent to New York “golden boy” Congressman Christopher O’Brien. When they get to New Rochelle, Fallon will pose as a Secret Service addition to the congressman’s staff, while Toles will act as a PR assistant to O’Brien’s strong-willed ex-wife, Cassidy, an English teacher, and thereby be in a good position to watch over both Cassidy and her and O’Brien’s 6-year-old son, Dylan. A sexual and romantic attraction sparks between idealistic Cassidy and love ’em–and–leave ’em Toles—fairly standard for the genre, except for the lesbian bent. The novel’s matter-of-fact approach to that point will exasperate some readers even as others might appreciate how candid it is. Both Toles and O’Brien have ties to the president; the congressman is “point person on several key pieces of legislation,” and the agent served under the president years ago when they were both stationed in Iraq. The central drama of the plot is well-handled, as it gradually becomes apparent that there are higher stakes at play than a relatively simple case of an obsessed stalker. But the writing can sometimes fall flat: Toles “was tall and muscular but still feminine in a way that was almost indescribable,” and she “had a presence that Cassidy could not describe.” More importantly, some of the technical details of the plot aren’t convincing, particularly since Toles pays more attention to Cassidy than she does to her assignment. The complex depictions of both Toles’ and Cassidy’s sexualities and personalities are refreshing, however, and the book’s climactic action scenes, though predictable, are well-paced.

Though bumpy at times, this welcome addition to the crime-fiction genre features a refreshingly new type of heroine.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615934181

Page Count: 490

Publisher: Bumbling Bard Creations

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2014

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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