Like a familiar roller-coaster ride; readers may see where the story’s headed but that doesn’t make it any less exhilarating.

The Millionaire's Cross

In Nudo’s (Phantom Reunions, 2005, etc.) thriller, three men need only do a small favor to win a big fortune; unforeseen consequences ensue.

Alex Neitzel’s annual trip with little brother Trevor to visit the spot where their sister killed herself takes an unexpected turn. Alex’s car dies, and the men, along with Trevor’s partner, Chad, are stranded. At a nearby cemetery, they help the elderly David Kendrick, who had collapsed. David thanks them with an offer of $50 each if they simply mail a letter for him, promising more money later for more favors. The next one, though, is a doozy—kill David’s wife, which he claims will be a mercy killing—but the pay is commensurate with the request, $5 million to split three ways. The guys seem reluctant but soon are on a trail of lies and murder, especially because $5 million goes a lot farther if it’s split just two ways or not at all. The author’s methodically paced (but never plodding) novel establishes its tone early. David is immediately unnerving. Alex seems like the levelheaded one of the trio, chauffeuring the couple, who are more interested in getting high than finding a way home. Plot twists abound. The initially likable protagonist, with his pregnant wife, Emily, at home, gets decidedly unlikable as the story progresses. But with each appalling act, the characters grow increasingly fascinating. There are so many shocks in Nudo’s book that readers are bound to guess at least some of the developments. But Nudo knows to keep the plot spiraling while allowing a startling event to resonate before the next one occurs.

Like a familiar roller-coaster ride; readers may see where the story’s headed but that doesn’t make it any less exhilarating.

Pub Date: July 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4997-0861-5

Page Count: 194

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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