An exciting series opener that delivers murder, drugs, and romance.

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DEADLY FOCUS

Chasing the truth about her uncle’s death, a gutsy television news photographer uncovers corruption and finds love in this debut thriller.

On assignment covering a man threatening to leap from atop a Hollywood hotel, Lucy Vega, a photographer for a local TV news station, realizes she knows the potential jumper. Naked and high on meth, Gary Mercer, the station’s former head of photography, comes off the ledge thanks to Lucy’s coaxing. Safely inside but crazed, he admits to Lucy a past crime—his mother didn’t die because of a fall; he murdered her by throwing her down the stairs. Afterward, he denies his confession and turns on Lucy because she knows the truth. A year later, working for heroin kingpin Luis Alvarez, who’s “kind of an El Chapo meets Al Capone,” Mercer learns that Lucy’s Uncle Henry, representing California in economic talks in Mexico City, has become a problem for the drug honcho’s operation. Mercer volunteers to eliminate Henry, making his death look like a car accident. Henry raised Lucy since she was orphaned as a child, and his death devastates her. She starts digging into the circumstances surrounding his crash. After killing Henry, Mercer accepts Alvarez’s diabolical assignment involving chemical companies linked to pharmaceutical subsidiaries. Lucy begins connecting the dots, and her investigations into Mercer’s and Alvarez’s activities get more dangerous, but she does share lighthearted times with her colleague Bea Middleton, a divorced mother of two. Bea’s love of pole dancing and designer duds makes her an unlikely best bud for no-nonsense Lucy, but the pair clicks. Lucy also eventually clicks with a new man, but will he be blue-eyed, former Special Ops soldier Brent Lucas or handsome documentarian Michael Burleson? Hinkin, a former TV news photographer, skillfully portrays irredeemable characters as well as likable but flawed ones in this first installment of the Vega and Middleton Mystery series. There’s a healthy mix of ethnicities, ages, and religions (at the news station’s holiday party, the executive playing Santa alternates his red cap with a blue yarmulke). Descriptions are vivid; a line of taillights becomes “a blood red trail creeping east.” Although the story moves briskly, editing could bring the 400-plus page count down considerably with no noticeable omissions. And despite the series title, this tale is more about Vega than Middleton. Still, the book is a promising debut.

An exciting series opener that delivers murder, drugs, and romance.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Literary Wanderlust

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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