FALSELY ACCUSED

Butch Karp has left the Manhattan D.A.'s office, but not the legal hot-seat, as this blistering novel of endless Big Apple corruption and coverups makes abundantly clear. Butch's client—a client he's taken on over the howls of his firm's colleagues, who prefer to hold their star litigator over the heads of their own handpicked enemies—is ex-Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Murray Selig, tossed out of office on trumped-up charges so risible that the Mayor and D.A. Sanford Bloom have to have something else in mind—something pretty dire. While Karp is gathering the ammunition to destroy the D.A.'s defense witnesses, his wife, Marlene Ciampi, also on the lam from the D.A.'s office, is fighting off her pushy friend, high-flying reporter Ariadne Stupenagel—busy working on a story on the shakedown of three New York cabbies who fortuitously died in police custody—long enough to set up her own agency serving women who need help enforcing protective legal orders against strangers or sadists or former lovers who are stalking them. Ciampi's highly effective vigilante tactics—heaven help the stalker she gets her teeth into—give Tanenbaum's tale a shot of welcome humor to counterbalance Ciampi's involvement with Isabella and Hector, a pair of wary refugee kids somebody has dumped at tough Mattie Duran's Women's Shelter. Amazingly, Tanenbaum manages to pull all four cases together—Selig's civil suit against the Mayor and the D.A., Stupenagel's investigation of the police shakedown, Ciampi's anti-stalking campaign, and the sorry tale of Isabella and Hector—and even finds a surprising new role for Karp and Ciampi's precocious seven-year-old daughter Lucy. After tossing Karp into the treacherous deeps of the Kennedy assassination (Corruption of Blood, 1995), Tanenbaum proves that his meticulous homework on questions of legal procedure and the best Chinese restaurant for an off-the-record conversation can turn the most preposterous conspiracy of his own into an electrifying page-turner.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1996

ISBN: 0-525-94168-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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