An effectively told, low-key tale of an arduous, sometimes-frightening road to fame.

THE DEVIL'S CONCUBINE

A Haitian-born man learns that making it in the cutthroat American music industry may require black magic and blood sacrifice in Mafate’s (When the Cobra Strikes, 2012, etc.) thriller.

When 16-year-old Raymond Pata immigrated to the United States from Haiti, he had aspirations for stardom. At 24, he finally decides to move to California in pursuit of a music career. His mother, Jean Pata, who’s built a successful cleaning business, refuses to support Raymond’s endeavor since he dropped out of college. So Raymond, on his own in California, takes a dubious gig driving stolen luxury cars. But even with his talent and musical equipment, breaking into the music biz seems unachievable. As per his mother’s recommendation, Raymond sees Baba Brima, a powerful witch doctor who can put him closer to fame. Brima performs a ritual that requires that Raymond appease gods with a blood sacrifice—committing a handful of murders to ensure the success of his band, The Rhythm Makers. This sparks serious media attention as authorities, linking the murders by their ritualistic aspect, hunt a serial killer. But it’s a mysterious, alluring woman who flusters Raymond. Following their initial encounter, she vanishes, and his obsession with her could ultimately be his downfall. Mafate’s novel originated as a screenplay, which is evident from the story’s myriad scenes of dialogue and minimal action. But the well-devised dialogue propels the story and provides seamless background. Though Raymond’s later homicidal acts significantly curtail any sympathy readers may feel for him, Mafate doesn’t glamorize the murders. Furthermore, references to African deities such as Nana Buluku and Mawu are respectful; whatever deeds a believer such as Raymond commits are on the individual, not the religion. Supernatural elements crop up in the final act, but like much of the preceding story, they’re shrewdly understated.

An effectively told, low-key tale of an arduous, sometimes-frightening road to fame.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62137-892-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Virtualbookworm.com

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 39

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more