A substantial thriller and a profound story of a woman recovering from abuse: two threads that complement each other...



In Barnes’ (And Still, She Wept, 2014, etc.) thriller, an FBI agent who has survived a harrowing experience with a serial killer finds another case in her hometown, where pageant contestants are being abducted.

FBI profiler Kayleen Archer’s last case nearly killed her. Serial murderer Richard Allan Estes, the man the feds were pursuing, left her alive but only after extensive torture and after killing herFBI partner and lover. Kayleen, on indefinite leave from the FBI and plagued by nightmares, takes refuge in Archdale, North Carolina, from which she fled 11 years ago, leaving behind her childhood friend and eventualboyfriend, Caleb Stone. Caleb, now the sheriff, wants Kayleen’s expertise with the case of 9-year-old Andie, who’d been found dead after disappearing from an illustrious 10-day beauty pageant. Kayleen quickly brings the investigation to a close, but another contestant is soon missing. This one, however, is different and seems to involve a killer who’s much more ruthlessly systematic and, to the horror of still-recovering Kayleen, reminiscent of Estes. At the same time, Kayleen suspects someone is watching her and may have been in her house, but her incessant drinking makes it impossible to know for sure. In some ways, the author’s protagonist resembles a world-weary detective; she chain-smokes and has become a full-fledged alcoholic, her breakfast often consisting of vodka and splashes of orange juice. But what makes Kayleen such an admirable character is that, however much she struggles, she endures. Her emotional scars render any reignited romance with Caleb, who still pines for her, a near impossibility, and her physical scars are brutally inescapable—she can actually feel her scars scratching her bed’s silk sheets. Barnes smartly implies that most of the torture Kayleen suffered was at the hands of Estes, though enough is relayed through dreams and flashbacks—e.g., hinting at the killer’s “tool bag of terrors”—that even the most seasoned reader might recoil. Beauty pageants aren’t portrayed in the best light: The girls’ parents don’t want the pageant shut down despite one murder and a possible second, and a girl who’s barely a teen being overtly sexualized during a performance makes Kayleen uncomfortable. The inevitable confrontation between the protagonist and the killer becomes a dramatic, suspenseful episode.

A substantial thriller and a profound story of a woman recovering from abuse: two threads that complement each other astonishingly well.

Pub Date: April 6, 2014


Page Count: 470

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


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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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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