A traditionally plotted but craftily executed legal thriller.

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A JURY OF PEERS

An investigative drama about murder, police, attorneys and suspicion in rural Kentucky.

In a chilling opener that ranks among the better introductory set pieces of today’s blockbuster thrillers—courtroom and otherwise—the novel sets the mood of local tragedy without a useless word. Two young boys have been missing for a couple hours and their respective families go looking—but to no avail (unfortunately, a cantankerous drunk led the search). After calling the police, a full search is issued and the boys are found, presumably having been mutilated by the dogs that stalk the Kentucky riverbank. It’s a horrific tragedy that shakes up the entire region and is chillingly rendered by Metry. Sherriff Paul Tellis, however, isn’t willing to call it a day and begins looking for human suspects—the last thing the town or the power structure that runs the county wanted to hear. Under the direction of a classically wicked prosecutor, innuendo and suspicion of outliers leads them to the young teenage outcast Joseph Khalil, an immigrant’s son who is brilliant with computers. The young man spends much of his time online in a vicious fantasy world, taking the handle of an infamous Muslim warrior. Despite Joseph’s intelligence, his time online alienates him from common human interactions and their consequences. And despite the brilliance of his two crack lawyers, Joseph mounts his own defense, using his abilities to craft a jury of his peers, drawn from a virtual generation. Given the complex range of events and the density of the plot, readers might expect flat, eye-glazing prose, but the pacing remains quick and punchy as it transitions from courtroom to character and is generously rendered in elegant writing unusual for the genre—especially given the grim events. Yes, it hits all the typical beats, but Metry handles them so deftly that even the—in retrospect—telegraphed revelation will surprise and satisfy those who love thrillers, as this book delivers classic elements of the genre.

A traditionally plotted but craftily executed legal thriller.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-0984699704

Page Count: 233

Publisher: White Schoolhouse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2011

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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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