A fine procedural augmented by beefy subplots and a pitiable villain.

SHANK

In the latest installment of Williams’ (Ace, 2015, etc.) thriller series, police detective Salvador Mitchell dodges assassins and deals with a surprise inheritance while a grieving father plans an explosive retribution.

Mitchell is understandably taken aback by the news of his mother Cora’s death in a helicopter crash in Costa Rica. But he’s outright shocked when attorney V.E. McNamara informs him that Cora’s estate, to which Mitchell’s entitled, is worth anywhere from $10 million to $30 million due to the respect that her paintings have garnered in the art world. A condition of the inheritance, however, is that Mitchell must leave his job as a homicide detective in the city of Salento, which he isn’t ready to do. His girlfriend, Mya Laing, would prefer that he turn in his shield, especially when it’s clear that people are trying to kill him—likely gang members seeking revenge for their boss’s death. Meanwhile, retired city engineer Kerak Daniluk is still mourning his engineer son, Wil, who died in an allegedly job-related accident. Kerak is distraught over the city’s apathetic handling of Wil’s death, so he plots vengeance, slowly amassing components for explosives—and his path soon crosses with Mitchell’s. Despite the presence of returning characters, including Mitchell, Laing, and Mitchell’s partner, Eddie “Sandman” Sandovan, the standout in Williams’ fourth series entry is Kerak. Despite his terrible goals, he’s quite sympathetic, and his plan is so methodical that the story never lingers on its potential malice. When it appears that nosy hunters might catch on to what Kerak’s doing, readers will see them more as obstacles than as potential heroes. Other assorted subplots, including one involving Laing’s ad-executive job, eventually tie into the main storyline, as well, sometimes in unexpected ways. Mitchell himself proves capable when facing hit men, but there’s only a modicum of detective work this time around given everything else that he has to deal with. Williams’ vivid descriptions also leave their mark: “The cityscape was a gallimaufry of varying architectural styles and lighting…bright white metal halides sparkled like diamonds.”

A fine procedural augmented by beefy subplots and a pitiable villain.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5455-4841-7

Page Count: 330

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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