Bids fair to be a thoroughly entertaining series. Pare the next one down some, and Grace understated will really shine.

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FLINT’S LAW

International cop Grace Flint makes a second intriguing appearance (Flint, 2000)—but then hangs around too long.

The pace grows uncertain near the 400-page mark. Until then, though, the action’s brisk as the gritty Brit tries to cope with a variety of misfortunes both professional and personal. To begin with, there’s the undercover operation mounted by an ad hoc international task force, directed by Grace, that fails drastically enough to earn ugly headlines in the US and abroad. Aimed at big-time money-laundering, it results in the death of a federal agent as well as loss of face for Grace and her FBI boss. Someone tipped off evil financial genius Karl Grober, enabling him to elude the trap Grace & Co. had set for him—someone purporting to be an ally. But the really dismal betrayal lurks around the corner. Between novels, Grace has fallen in love. Her husband Ben Gates, dedicated birdwatcher, respected member of the Maine Audubon Society, avowedly apolitical, turns out to be a conscienceless fraud in the employ of not one but multiple foreign agencies with secret agendas and dark intent. “I married a lie,” acknowledges Grace to her mirror as she attempts to come to terms with the magnitude of her husband’s deception. But Grace deceived is Grace enraged, and that’s bad news for all the seducers and traducers impinging on her life. In the US, in England, Germany, on an island off Croatia, on a boat on the Bay of Biscay, and finally in Brazil, she hunts relentlessly for faithless Ben and murderous Grober. Nor is she ever constrained by the rules. What’s Flint’s law, a onetime colleague asks rhetorically. And, resignedly, answers: “Whatever she wants it to be.”

Bids fair to be a thoroughly entertaining series. Pare the next one down some, and Grace understated will really shine.

Pub Date: July 22, 2002

ISBN: 0-399-14838-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2002

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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