A smart, gritty political-conspiracy thriller.




In this finale to Lubitz’s (Beyond Top Secret, 2015, etc.) trilogy, the identities of two amnesiacs come into question as a secret group plans to unleash a powerful mind-control drug.

Bill and Cheryl Parker happily live in the secluded paradise of Hawaii’s Molokai island. Several years earlier in Colorado, a car accident left Bill in a coma and Cheryl with brain trauma, effectively shrouding their past lives in a fog. One day, an earthquake strikes the island, and the Parkers nearly die. In Washington, D.C., Beltway Insider reporter Connie Blythe sees Cheryl in disaster footage and believes that she’s a woman named Alana Shannon. More than two years earlier, Alana, a former men’s-magazine model, shot and killed her husband, a real estate magnate; she claimed self-defense, the murder charge was dropped, and she disappeared. Further research convinces Connie that Bill is actually a man named Ryan Butler. When Blythe confronts them, they deny being anyone other than the Parkers. Blythe doesn’t give up, however, as she’s sure that the pair can aid her investigation of warmongering U.S. Rep. Steven Luke of Missouri, the central figure in a plot to use a hypnosis drug to subvert the White House and manipulate the war on terror. In this swift final volume of his series, Lubitz, a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Justice, brings an insider’s perspective to his narrative, set in the immediate years after the 9/11 attacks. At one point, for example, a seasoned agent tells a younger one about President George W. Bush’s CIA: “These new guys are vicious sharks, and if you submit to their methods, they will destroy you and the agency.” Some characters will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, and the author effectively uses terse, chilling dialogue to get this across. For instance, a former KGB agent uses a fake persona to reel in a target; later, when the woman asks why she can’t speak with “Mr. Tyman,” he answers, “Because Mr. Tyman doesn’t exist.” Fans of the series, as well as newcomers, will also enjoy the protagonists’ optimism in the face of governmental corruption and global chaos.

A smart, gritty political-conspiracy thriller.

Pub Date: March 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-85566-9

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Twist of Fate Press

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.


Coelho is a Brazilian writer with four books to his credit. Following Diary of a Magus (1992—not reviewed) came this book, published in Brazil in 1988: it's an interdenominational, transcendental, inspirational fable—in other words, a bag of wind. 

 The story is about a youth empowered to follow his dream. Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy who learns through a dream of a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. An old man, the king of Salem, the first of various spiritual guides, tells the boy that he has discovered his destiny: "to realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation." So Santiago sells his sheep, sails to Tangier, is tricked out of his money, regains it through hard work, crosses the desert with a caravan, stops at an oasis long enough to fall in love, escapes from warring tribesmen by performing a miracle, reaches the pyramids, and eventually gets both the gold and the girl. Along the way he meets an Englishman who describes the Soul of the World; the desert woman Fatima, who teaches him the Language of the World; and an alchemist who says, "Listen to your heart" A message clings like ivy to every encounter; everyone, but everyone, has to put in their two cents' worth, from the crystal merchant to the camel driver ("concentrate always on the present, you'll be a happy man"). The absence of characterization and overall blandness suggest authorship by a committee of self-improvement pundits—a far cry from Saint- Exupery's The Little Prince: that flagship of the genre was a genuine charmer because it clearly derived from a quirky, individual sensibility. 

 Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-250217-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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