A sometimes-appealing tale of a small town, hampered by barely concealed proselytizing.



In this thriller, a reporter attempts to exonerate an immigrant falsely accused of terrorism.

Shahnaz Delpak, an Iranian woman whose son attends school in Piskasanet County, complains at a meeting of the board of education that the system’s textbooks vilify her Muslim heritage while explicitly endorsing Christianity. School board member Beatrice Doggit counters by advocating textbooks that unabashedly celebrate Jesus Christ. Apropos of nothing, another pair of parents demands that teachers be armed as a precautionary measure against terrorist attacks and boisterously announces that they have guns with them at that very moment. Just as the argument reaches a fever pitch, a young man appears and trains his own gun on Shahnaz. In one of many heavy-handed moments in Keech’s (First World Problems, 2017) novel, the two armed parents flee in cowardly manner, while three unarmed teachers wrestle the gunman to the ground. A shot is fired in the chaos, and the errant bullet hits a teacher in the leg. The young attacker is high school senior Willard Scherd, who’s taken into custody—along with Shahnaz. The community’s response is terrified distortion; although Scherd is a white, Christian American, rumors circulate that the attack was by a Muslim extremist—so Shahnaz becomes a prime subject of investigation. Young reporter Anthony Mansfield conducts one investigation of his own to vindicate Shahnaz, and another into Beatrice’s opportunistic plan. Keech’s prose style is charmingly companionable, and he depicts the romantic entanglements of Anthony’s personal life, including an involvement with his boss’s daughter, with a tone of sweetness and humor. However, the overall plot is tediously didactic, diligently leading the reader to sententious lessons about prejudice and gun control. Indeed, the author’s overweening desire to push his viewpoints on readers results in characters that are straw-man caricatures, such as the father of the gunman: “I’ve had enough of you snowflake libtard pussies. We’re Americans. We have the right to carry guns. It’s in the damn Constitution.”

A sometimes-appealing tale of a small town, hampered by barely concealed proselytizing. 

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018


Page Count: 266

Publisher: Real Nice Books

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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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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