Skip walks away with this frantic plot full of imposing characters. A series beckons.

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THE LOGIC BOMB

In Lord’s debut techno-thriller, a lawyer winds up in the middle of a cyberwar between governments after he agrees to broker the sale of a much-desired computer program.

Attorney Tom Tresh represents shady clients, but he’s just as shady: He’ll find a way to get an insurance payout even when he knows it’s a scam. He helps fellow lawyer Charlie Papadoukas negotiate the $100 million sale of Elidera, financial software for tracking and trading stocks and commodities. Charlie, who warns Tom of the seller’s mob ties, has to pay a hacker to steal Elidera because gangster Tony Antonucci wants to delay the sale until he has legal ownership of the company. But Charlie doesn’t tell Tom that the program is actually a logic bomb that can obliterate computer systems. Various parties are invested, including the U.S. and Chinese governments, and when someone kidnaps Tom’s 7-year-old son, Tris, and Charlie disappears, Tom knows he’ll need help wherever he can get it. Lord’s novel is rife with tense scenes dominated by gleefully unpredictable characters—including Tom’s allies. Former client Skip Williams is a deadly, prolific criminal, and though bar/restaurant owner Meg is a former cop, she ended her first date with Tom by pulling a gun: “You were getting frisky,” she reminds him. Lord wisely makes the MacGuffin something tangible; any copy of Elidera is useless without the USB device containing instruction codes. Threats are never in question: Tom can’t avoid a beating or two, and not everyone makes it to the end. The best scenes take place in the courtroom, where Charlie is being sued by the potential buyer after refusing to give up the codes or return the payment. There, Tom is in his element, convincing Charlie to subvert the truth in his deposition; comedy abounds, mostly from Judge Deetz, who snacks and flosses while court’s in session. Later in the book, Tom unfortunately and too often stands on the sidelines, but that does allow Skip, who comes complete with a chapter-length back story on his law-breaking history, to take over the story. He’s a strong character who’s hard not to love, despite his predilections for violence and murder.

Skip walks away with this frantic plot full of imposing characters. A series beckons.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1460249093

Page Count: 264

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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