A violent, captivating, and boggy tale set during World War II.

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IN SEARCH OF BRIGID COLTRANE

A family attempts to escape German spies in 1940s Ireland in this historical thriller.

The West of Ireland, 1941. Peter Coltrane, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, has had trouble transitioning back to life at home and increasingly seeks relief at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. One day, Peter and his 14-year-old daughter, Brigid, are fishing near the shore of an island called Red Cow on Loch Gorm when they accidentally witness the brutal execution of two men by a group of mysterious assailants. The Coltranes are spotted and pursued, but Peter’s survival skills kick into gear. He escapes the men, sinks his boat, and goes into hiding with his daughter among the local bogs. Little does Peter know of the larger forces involved: he has witnessed German agents murdering British spies, as both powers vie for control of neutral Ireland in Hitler’s ever-expanding war. The German spymaster in Dublin sends in reinforcements to capture “that fisherman and his daughter,” and even orders them to kidnap Peter’s wife—though she proves just as slippery as her husband. Peter is an adept commando, but when Brigid falls into the clutches of an English mercenary working for the Nazis, he will have to push himself to the limits of his abilities to get her back. Beirne (Breakout from Sugar Island, 2015) writes in a taut but descriptive prose, adeptly summoning the wild countryside and Peter’s comfort in it: “These islands were inaccessible to all but a knowledgeable few…Coltrane felt at home among the hazel trees and heather that blanketed the bog like a coat of chain link armor.” If one gets past the rather unlikely premise—that some spies would go to such great lengths to kill a fisherman who would have no means of identifying them—the book functions as a compelling yarn. The bogs and lake isles make for an evocative setting, and the expected rural Irish personalities provide the requisite local color. Beirne manages to imbue each of his characters with just enough complexity to keep readers engaged, even as the plot rambles on toward a foreseeable end.

A violent, captivating, and boggy tale set during World War II.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 347

Publisher: Fireship Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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