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THE GIRL ON RUSK STREET

An ambitious and affecting murder tale.

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A debut YA novel tells the story of a quiet Texas community struck by a horrendous crime.

Bobbi Rogers has an idyllic life in Marshall, Texas, in the early 1960s. With her best friends, Katie Baxter and Lawrence “Law” Miller, she has the run of Rusk Street, building forts in the woods and observing the comings and goings of their neighbors. She takes special interest when Lucille Harris moves to town to teach music at the local black college. The young widow “looks like a real movie star,” though her place of employment raises eyebrows among her white neighbors. Bobbi quickly becomes enamored of her, as does Jim Tressell, a gardening enthusiast and husband to a wheelchair-bound wife. Bobbi, age 10, is only beginning to become aware of the bleaker side of life, like the racism felt toward the students of the black college or the “Peepin’ Tom” who was seen peering in through her neighbors’ window. Bobbi’s innocence is shattered for good, however, when Lucille is brutally murdered one night in her kitchen. The citizens of Rusk Street quickly start to speculate who the culprit is and whether Lucille may have brought the tragedy upon herself. Jim is arrested for the crime, but as the trial unfolds, there are more questions unearthed than answers. Bobbi’s quest to discover her friend’s killer will force her to examine the latent darkness at the heart of her beloved Rusk Street. Carlile writes in a colorful prose that deftly evokes the curiosity and naiveté of her narrator: “Daddy said that when people were married for a long time, they started to look alike. I thought that was a funny thing to say, but maybe he was right. Both of the Van Worths had stooped shoulders, gray hair and pinched-in faces.” The community of Rusk Street is skillfully drawn, and the mystery at the center of the novel is compelling and surprising. The book is slightly bloated at 300-plus pages, and the ending is not quite as sharp as it should be. But it still manages to call to mind a certain classic novel about racism and a trial in the Depression-era South.

An ambitious and affecting murder tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-973939-02-3

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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KAT'S CRADLE

The third Kat Colorado novel (Katwalk, Katapult), a contrived affair, replete with Meaningful Chapter Headings, that concerns weepy Paige (formerly Pearl) Morrell, who hires the sardonically edgy Kat to find her unknown mom—her granny, who has just died, brought Paige up and said nary a word. The usual p.i. statistics- dredging discovers granny's twin daughters, Opal and Ruby, one now heading up an Omaha future-trends consultancy and the other squirreled away in a care facility. Are they lying about who's who, and does it relate back to their late teen years and one girl's illicit romance and the other's departure for the East? Paige's fiancÇ, yuppie Paul, nearly kills Kat to get her to drop the investigation, and Derek, the business brains behind the trends company, romances her into virtual slow-wittedness. Two more deaths later, Kat unravels an unsurprising identity switch, turns a goodnight kiss into a shootout, and stares unblinkingly at Paige's crocodile tears. A calculated rendering of p.i. conventions, readable if not particularly original.

Pub Date: March 16, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-42095-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992

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PONDFIRE

Maynard (Quiet, Wyatt!, 1999) makes fire the pivotal plot element in this short, episodic action novel. In the small village of McIntosh, Jed, the fire chief’s son, is branded a fire bug for a past transgression in which he accidentally burned down the family garage. Now, when a local swamp catches fire, he is the first to be blamed. Norm Dempsey, wannabe fire chief, is first to point the finger. Through a freak accident, Jed’s father lands in a coma in the hospital. A series of fires, a swamp fire, brush fire, barn fire, and school fire in the sports equipment room, forms a string of actions that make up the story. Toss in a few boyish pranks and some not-so-subtle clues and the story builds to its natural climax—an even bigger fire. This time, a monster train wreck sets the whole pond ablaze. Not surprisingly, Jed takes charge and steps in to rescue the day, the nursing home and surrounding houses, with a little help from his recuperating father, all in the name of saving face and proving that Norm Dempsey is behind the arsons. This fast-moving, predictable fare has some great action sequences, with appeal for mystery fans. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-399-23439-X

Page Count: 149

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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