Psychological thriller debut by a distant relative of Edgar Allan Poe's that, while it will not win an Edgar, holds up as a consistently interesting tale, though more in the line of a Wilkie Collins mystery/romance than a Poe grotesquerie. Crowley Creek, Virginia, some 60 miles from Roanoke, is the location of the rebuilt House of Usher, now a sanitarium run by Drs. Roderick and Madeleine Usher, twins and descendants of the notorious Ushers made famous by Poe. Rod's best friend is John Charles Poe, a relative of Poe's, an independently wealthy man with a degree in English literature who nonetheless works as the sole, trod-upon reporter for Fanny Boynton's Crowley Sentinel. John Charles has inherited Crowley House, as well as a casket of private papers written by Edgar Allan himself (at Sotheby's these would, of course, be worth zillions, but that's never mentioned). Roderick goes balmy when Madeleine (she's a shrink) dies. Not only he but other patients at the sanitarium have seen ``ghosts'' of dead patients wandering the halls, and now Rod and even John Charles see the late Madeleine waltzing about. Throughout the story the supernatural is hinted at—but are the ghosts only a ploy by unscrupulous New York hoods who want to open a casino on Rod's grounds and use it for money laundering? Are the hoods in league with certain locals such as Fanny Boynton, lawyer Prynne, and the mayor? Do real ghosts blunder about the maze of tunnels through and under the House of Usher? And what of the copper-lined room where the original Madeleine was laid out and later awoke from premature burial? Will the Poe papers in the casket reveal to John Charles the abominable secret of the Ushers? And will the approaching monster hurricane do more than knock a few boards loose from the House of Usher? Less supernatural than the elder Poe—but the hidden papers of great poets always cast a spell.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-86012-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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