A tech-driven thriller; entertaining despite the inflated prose.



Author Holt’s (Substrate, 2016, etc.) innovative thriller drives home the fact that technology isn’t always our friend.

This is Holt’s second novel featuring Lincoln “Mac” MacMahan, a professor and veteran suffering from PTSD. In Oblique (2016), Mac and his students uncovered a government plot to influence the upcoming presidential election (where do authors get such outlandish ideas?). This time around, Mac; his wife, Mindy; and his students discover a foreign scheme to replace the newly elected Margie Perserve, the first female U.S. president, who seeks to unify the country after her divisive predecessor’s nefarious plan failed. But the autocratic, lascivious ruler of an Asian country has Perserve kidnapped, replacing her with an undetectable solid hologram that enables him to direct American policy. As Holt explains in his preface, these are “Hologram forms with self-sustaining space occupancy, light energy, behavior, touch, and mass. A human facsimile, a replica out of thin air, vectored by the nation’s artificial intelligence (AI) backend.” The president’s husband, Roy, a former solider like Mac, notices changes in his wife’s behavior. Around that same time, Mac and Mindy discover inexplicable shifts in the president’s policies. They bring in computer whiz Justin, one of Mac’s students, who uses a filter and finds something suspicious in recent images of Perserve. It’s a race to uncover the imposter and free the president from her overseas captors. Holt’s novel is a satisfying blend of sci-fi, suspense, and romance. He paces his narrative well. The reader is shuttled from Asia to Washington, D.C., to New York as the tension builds. Holt, who comes from a technological background, makes the holographic process believable, no small feat. The novel, however, assumes a tiresomely earnest tone. The leader and his minions are evil, while all the Americans are morally correct. This is especially evident when it comes to the two couples, Mac and Mindy and Margie and Roy: “I do know that what kept me going through all my recovery were dreams of you and your embrace. Imagining that you loved me,” Mindy says. Still, action wins the day here and largely distracts from the flaws.

A tech-driven thriller; entertaining despite the inflated prose.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-15823-4

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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