HAND IN GLOVE

A faltering from usually reliable melodramatist Goddard (A Debt of Dishonor; Into the Blue, etc.): Charlotte Ladram, mopping up after her elderly Aunt Beatrix's murder, unearths an incredible lode of 50- year-old scandals. Though it looks as if seamy antiquer Colin Fairfax-Vane turned burglar and killed Beatrix Abberley in a struggle over her Tunbridge Ware, Colin's brother Derek manages to persuade Charlie, after the obligatory resistance, that Colin's been framed by somebody who killed Beatrix to keep her from revealing a secret about her brother Tristram—an important poet who died fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Shortly before her death, it seems, Beatrix dispatched mysterious messages to her nephew Maurice's wife Ursula; to her old crony Lulu Harrington; to an unknown Madame V— in Paris and a Mrs. Van Something in New York; and to Tristram's old sergeant, Frank Griffith. Ursula insists that her parcel contained only blank paper, but the Griffith letters, supposedly burned unread, turn out to reveal that Beatrix actually wrote the poetry that made Tristram famous—a revelation that provides an obvious murder motive for a suspect much closer to home. Just when Charlie, with the help of Maurice and Tristram's duplicitous biographer Emerson McKitrick, thinks she's plumbed the depths of Beatrix's secret, a kidnapping and another murder make it clear that the parcels conceal still another secret- -which, despite Goddard's protestations, has nothing to do with the authorship of the poems. Under the banner of this second secret a new team—Charlie, Derek, and Frank—emerges to foil the kidnappers in Spain just in time for a ringingly irrelevant final scene back in England. The first half purrs along as expertly as any of Goddard's sturdy upper-class suspensers. He comes a cropper, though, with that second- tier secret and its working out, which lacks even the conviction of ingenuity.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-75070-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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