Dramatic and intelligent, this is a smart start to a new detective series.



A photographer taking pictures of gravestones uncovers evidence of a horrifying crime in this mystery novel.

Colorado photographer Sam Dawson sums up his life this way: “Divorced, no close friends, obsessed with his career, and only a dog for companionship.” Ten years ago, he was too busy to visit his dying mother; now, as some kind of absolution, he’s taking pictures of tombstones in her hometown of Oxford, Iowa. Sam uncovers eerie likenesses between the Iowa cemetery and one thousands of miles away in Cambridge, Colo. For example, Eugene Eris, a doctor, is buried in each, 18 months apart with the same birth dates and the same mysterious epitaph: “Wellborn Are My Children.” Even the gravediggers for both sites look like twins. Ignoring threats and trying to romance a beautiful genetics researcher, Sam digs through dusty file folders, computerized records and layers of bureaucracy as he zeros in on Dr. Eris’ place in the early 20th-century eugenics movement—and his hideous crimes. Horn (Another Man’s Life, 2012, etc.) has constructed a truly unsettling mystery backed by in-depth knowledge of science, Colorado bureaucracy and politics, and history. Who knew, for example, that a eugenics section of the State Board of Stock Inspection was still part of Colorado law? The pieces fit together well; e.g., an inherited genetic condition serves both to put Sam’s daughter in danger and to reveal the ironic tragedy of Eris’ schemes. Horn’s characterization, dialogue and pacing are solid. He makes the wise decision to set the novel in 1999, so plot points aren’t simplified by current technology. These days, Sam’s discoveries could have easily gone vial, but that would have given the story a different ending. A few creaky tropes from mystery thrillers can be found here: not calling the police because “who’s going to believe this wild story?”; the untrustworthy girlfriend; the bad guys hurting Sam emotionally and predictably. Horn plans further Sam Dawson mysteries, and criticisms aside, readers will look forward to the next outing.

Dramatic and intelligent, this is a smart start to a new detective series.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0983589419

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Granite Peak Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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


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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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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