THE TRIGGERMAN'S DANCE

An overcooked revenge fantasy from a sometime (some other time) master of the genre (Summer of Fear, 1993, etc.). When intern Rebecca Harris was shot down in mistake for her boss, Orange County Journal columnist Susan Baum, she left two inconsolable mourners behind: her fiance, FBI agent Joshua Weinstein, and her secret lover, Journal reporter John Menden. Six months later, Menden's retired to a small-town paper and a dilapidated trailer, but Weinstein hasn't wasted his time: He's satisfied himself that Rebecca was killed by Vann Holt, a Feebee-turned-private-security-king, who was out for revenge against Baum's public defense of the man who killed Holt's own son and left his wife paralyzed. Weinstein, who doesn't have enough on Holt to put him away, wants Menden to meetcute with the target, worm his way into Liberty Ridge, the Holt compound, and get the goods on him. So Menden, via an elaborate FBI-scripted scenario, saves Holt's eligible daughter Valerie from a fate worse than death, runs the gauntlet of suspicious underlings at Liberty Ridge, and finds things getting entirely too cozy. Carolyn Holt is convinced he's her dead son; Valerie is coming on to him like a house afire; and soon Meriden is ablaze, too. Meantime, Holt's thuggish assistant Lane Fargo is upping his surveillance on the interloper, and the FBI is warned that they have only six more days to close the case before they're pulled off. Does any of this sound familiar? All right, the original stroke here—the tear-soaked alliance between Weinstein and Menden—is handled with all the intensity you'd expect from Parker; but it isn't enough to justify the ill-advised presumption, signaled by gallons of pressure on our man Menden, that we don't all know exactly where this is all headed. Well-turned-out, if you can ignore the striking lack of originality. But it does seem unwise to pit such familiar fare against summer reruns on TV.

Pub Date: July 4, 1996

ISBN: 0-7868-6142-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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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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