Respectful and astute handling of serious social conflicts in a satisfying yarn.

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Blue's Point

In Ferguson’s (The Thin Line Between Life and Death, 2013, etc.) thriller, a just-released convict and a journalist travel to a small Texas town where racial tension breeds contempt and violence.

Steve Cox returns to Blue’s Point 10 years after his conviction for killing a black man. The prison released him into the custody of old Jim Blue, whose family has owned Blue’s Point and neighboring Freedman’s Town for decades. At the same time, black magazine writer Mykeisha “Mike” Ali rides into town, planning to expose Blue’s Point as a cesspool of racism where the Klan and skinheads run rampant, threatening (and sometimes killing) black people. Both Steve and Mike, however, may be a hindrance to a diabolical plot already underway, and there are men willing to resort to murder to keep the two quiet. Ferguson firmly establishes the story’s racial theme. Mike, for instance, is attacked by skinheads simply for stopping to get gas, and it’s abundantly clear that Freedman’s Town is a community for the blacks unwelcome in Blue’s Point. Ferguson fortunately allows the theme to enhance the novel rather than drive it. Steve, for one, is invested in finding out who killed his father, who had been the Klan’s Grand Dragon, and he quickly learns that the murder that sent him to jail may have been a frame job. The villains, like the repugnant Tommy Saunder, reveal different levels of racism, some derived from ignorance, some from pure hatred. Steve is likable almost instantly when he saves a puppy from a discarded sack in a creek (courtesy of Tommy). Mike, too, is a laudable character. She’s nearly relegated into a supporting role in the suspenseful final act and a little too reliant on Steve while both are fleeing the Klan, but she’s admirably defiant even in the face of danger. Ferguson further augments his tale with drama—e.g., unresolved issues with Steve’s high school football pal, police chief Champ Lee—a hint of romance between Steve and Mike, and a surprising amount of mystery: whoever framed Steve for murder may very well be trying to do it again.

Respectful and astute handling of serious social conflicts in a satisfying yarn.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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

DEVOLUTION

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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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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