Nick is an action fan’s dream, with the smarts and charm of an exemplary character who warrants a third installment of the...

The Long Squeeze

A NICK SANDERS THRILLER

From the A Nick Sanders Thriller series

A forensics accountant and former fed looking into the death of an FBI pal may have exposed an imminent terrorist attack in the second in Stam’s (The Trust Company, 2012) thriller series.

When venture fund Phoenix Holdings loses three employees, including undercover fed Chuck Engler, in an unexplained plane crash, the FBI calls in Nick Sanders as a consultant. Nick, who’d previously worked in the bureau’s financial crimes unit, joins his girlfriend, Special Agent Lisa Velasquez, in investigating his friend’s involvement in Phoenix. The two initially suspect that Chuck had been on the take, but the agent’s posthumous message for Nick—“follow the money”—points toward a broader conspiracy. Phoenix’s higher-ups dispatch men to follow Nick and Lisa, and soon the couple finds possible links between the company and a planned terrorist strike on the U.S. Despite the protagonist’s white-collar profession (Nick opens the story having just finished auditing a shipping company’s books), Stam’s novel has a staggering amount of action. Nick and Lisa, for one, wind up in the midst of multiple gunfights. Suspense-laden plot points include a mysterious key Chuck leaves for Nick; baddies with the ability to sever communications (i.e., cellphones); and an unexpected ally for the investigating duo. The financial storyline sparks curiosity, especially narrator Nick’s thorough explanation of unfamiliar terms, like shorting stocks. It’s likewise refreshing that the nerdish Nick, an ex-Marine, is physically adept and funny (he left the Marines because his next promotion would make him Lt. Col. Sanders). It’s understandable that the final act focuses on deaths, near deaths, and dodging bullets—particularly with a potential bomb in the equation—but it’s unfortunate that it sidelines Nick’s brainy half. Stam drops in a few twists before the ending; some are predictable, others shocking, but none of them slows down the gleefully rapid pace.

Nick is an action fan’s dream, with the smarts and charm of an exemplary character who warrants a third installment of the series. 

Pub Date: July 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9848174-1-2

Page Count: 386

Publisher: Langford Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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