A spirited reporter dealing with her past and helping police solve a murder in the family makes this novel hard to put down.

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LOW COUNTRY BLOOD

From the Vega & Middleton Mystery series

An African-American investigative journalist hunts her cousin’s killer and then becomes a target herself in this Southern thriller.

Beatrice “Beazy” Middleton, freshly laid off from her reporting job in Los Angeles, drives her silver Beemer cross-country to visit her family in Savannah, Georgia. Halfway there, her brother, Luther, a sheriff in rural Georgia, calls to say their 15-year-old cousin, Jayden, was murdered. Jayden, a musical prodigy, played fiddle and organ, and he “had the voice of a young Stevie Wonder.” Emad Al Alequi, whose father, Farouk, heads an Afghan heroin ring, recognized Jayden’s talent and was working as his manager. Marcus “Muhammed” Trotter, hired by Farouk to be his son’s handler, knew if Emad got overly involved with Jayden, it would interfere with the family’s drug trade. If Trotter couldn’t deter Emad, he could stop Jayden—with a “9mm hollow point, Teflon-tipped” bullet. It turns out Trotter’s history of being a very bad dude stretches back to high school, when he assaulted Beatrice, who was rescued by Luther’s best friend, Rio Deakins. Trotter relishes the chance to hurt Beatrice again while Rio, now a “goddamned gorgeous” motorcycle-riding college professor, comes back into her life and may be the perfect man for her—despite his fiancee. Hinkin’s (Deadly Focus, 2018) second Vega and Middleton Mystery, which, like the first book in the series, stars only one of the titular characters and reads like a thriller, successfully blends multiple ingredients: fast pacing, romance, danger, humor, and a crazy wild ending. Nice details pepper the story: For example, a character in a coffee shop insists “on stabilizing the table with a couple of sugar packets,” and the female redheaded police detective has skin “the color of cream with cinnamon sprinkles.” Other passages border on the poetic, such as Beatrice’s thoughts as her car races like a swift, sleek panther home to Georgia: “Licking my lips, I sought the briny tang of the Pacific, but it was gone. Other flavors were on the rise. I took a long swig of water. I was good. A little anxious, but good.”

A spirited reporter dealing with her past and helping police solve a murder in the family makes this novel hard to put down.

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-942856-33-7

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Literary Wanderlust

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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