Siciarz’s smooth, homespun island mystery series continues to provide satisfying entertainment with plenty of wit and...

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Rum for the Pineapple Cup

The third installment of mystery novelist Siciarz’s (Away With the Fishes, 2014, etc.) Island of Oh series, featuring the continuing adventures of the fictional tropical island’s customs and excise officer, Raoul Orlean.

As the story begins, Raoul has forgotten his librarian wife Lila’s birthday. He visits shop owner and bewitching mystic Cora Silverfish for a last-minute piece of jewelry, knowing that her gems have a reputation for being enchanted. He also knows that he’ll get a good deal, now that her shop is set to go out of business. She selects a gemstone for him that comes complete with a spell to ward off the spirits of darkness, and this comes in handy later, when Lila receives only a minor injury from a fall. A faded cricket player, Seafus Hobb, cryptically warns Cora not to close her shop; he blames her for his diminished former sports career and his present job as an oddities-museum curator. A merciless, manipulative local newspaper editor, Bruce Kandele, stirs the pot by saying that Lila’s injury may be the result of some “malicious intent” by Cora, due to some philandering by Raoul. Soon, accusations begin swirling around Lila’s faithfulness as well. Questions also arise about officer Dwight Williams’s clandestine (and possibly illegal) deliveries to businesses from a sketchy curator. Meanwhile, the island’s annual Pineapple Cup soccer tournament approaches. Raoul once again dons his investigative hat and does the spadework to catch guilty parties in action. Is Dwight a courier of criminal contraband? Is someone intercepting packages at Seafus’ museum? Will the intuitive Cora save the day, or is she a co-conspirator? Needless to say, the resolution is swift and justice is served, although readers will find that much of the plot is obvious by the middle portion of the novel. Overall, though, the author is in fine form once again, using the same breezy storytelling and likable, engrossing characters that have made the Island of Oh popular. Siciarz shows Raoul demonstrating some investigative skill and, in typical frenzied fashion, dashing across the island in search of answers with a spontaneously planned sting operation. Even though the mystery this time around is more loosely drawn than in past volumes, fans of the series can rest assured that the island remains in good hands with folks like Raoul Orlean on its side.  

Siciarz’s smooth, homespun island mystery series continues to provide satisfying entertainment with plenty of wit and spiritual nuance.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Pink Moon Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2016

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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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