A series that seemingly couldn’t get any better goes a little deeper; with Young at the helm, readers can’t lose.




Fleet and friends take to the sea to solve a maritime murder in Young’s (Fleeting Note, 2013, etc.) fourth entry in his one-of-a-kind comic mystery series.

When an admiral friend invites semiretired PI Enescu Fleet and sidekick John Hathaway to Astorbay, Canada, for an all-night game of poker aboard The Stacked Deck, they’re happy to accept. “After all,” quips Fleet, “What sort of Fleet would refuse the request of an admiral?” Hathaway is particularly pleased not to be “stumbling over grisly corpses or up to [his] elbows in potential killers” after a year full of bizarre murder cases. Maybe, for once, his fiancee, Lesley, Fleet’s daughter, Ate, and Fleet’s faithful Maltese, Pixie, will all get to enjoy a vacation. But a relaxing night just isn’t in the cards for our hapless narrator; no sooner has Hathaway flopped a full house than a man falls overboard and another is found stabbed. Out of the 10 card players there that night, it seems that one of them had a different sort of game in mind. Though much of the resulting case takes place on the island, the story is something of a nautical Ten Little Indians, with the players’ pasts bringing them to the table in similar fashion to the famous Christie novel. Just as in the other books in his series, Young plots this story brilliantly and tells it through the same affably lost Hathaway. Characteristic of his writing, Young’s book revels in wordplay and self-referential humor as the author shuffles through more playing-card puns than this review can deal. That’s not to say it’s all fun; from Ate’s childhood in the shadow of her famous father to the darker moments of the detective’s own past, the story takes readers deeper into Young’s characters than ever before. Though the humor occasionally borders on being too subtle for its own good, the gambit proves worth the risk by keeping the series fresh. As always, attentive readers will be well-rewarded.

A series that seemingly couldn’t get any better goes a little deeper; with Young at the helm, readers can’t lose.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0991232468

Page Count: 240

Publisher: MysteryCaper Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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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.


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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