A thriller with an intriguing central idea that could have been more skillfully fleshed out.



While investigating a major earthquake in Iran, a U.S. Geological Survey seismologist and his graduate assistant learn of a terrorist plot to poison drinking water in this debut novel.

Orsini’s thriller jumps into the action quickly, as Dr. Roger Rogers, his assistant Teresa Marchetti, and Dr. Bjorn Arnarson, a Norwegian science attaché, are forced to make an emergency helicopter landing at a biological weapons installation in Iran. They’re quickly met by armed guards and charged with espionage. While awaiting trial in jail, Rogers is approached by Mustafa, a laboratory worker, who tells him of a plan to contaminate the water supplies of several U.S. cities with anthrax. Mustafa, a member of a group called Soldiers of Islam, helps Rogers and his companions effect a harrowing escape through Iran and Afghanistan. During their flight, Arnarson is killed, but Rogers and Marchetti get away. Meanwhile, back in Mountain View, California, a mysterious Middle Eastern man follows Rogers’ teenage daughter, Julie. Later, someone tries to kill Rogers by running him off the road in Norway, where he’s visiting to pay respects to Arnarson’s family. Soon, the seismologist and his team, with the aid of the Defense Intelligence Agency, return to Iran in an attempt to save the United States from imminent threat. At times, Orsini’s prose offers sharp descriptions: “The application of the brakes rocked the big plane slowly back and forth like a huge rocking chair.” More often, however, the book suffers from stilted dialogue that keeps readers from seeing the characters as realistic and sympathetic: “ ‘Hi, Pam,’ said Roger at curbside. ‘Gosh it’s good to see you again,’ he said while giving her a big hug. ‘Oh, meet my grad assistant, Teresa Marchetti.’ ” In addition, the story front-loads most of the action scenes, following them with a number of events that initially seem relevant but are never tied into the rest of the story. It all leads to an anticlimactic conclusion.

A thriller with an intriguing central idea that could have been more skillfully fleshed out.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64151-218-3

Page Count: 214

Publisher: LitFire Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet