A tense, cautionary page-turner from start to finish, with well-defined protagonists and some riveting scenes.

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FROM A SINGLE SEED

A young coed from a prestigious Vermont college goes missing, and the local police suspect her boyfriend is guilty of foul play in Ames’ (All about the Greater Good, 2016) chilling novel.

Eighteen-year-old Shannon Dawson disappeared after attending an off-campus party celebrating the end of the school year’s first semester. Her 20-year-old boyfriend, Keenan Brody, was also seen at the party, but nobody recalls them leaving together. Police officer Dustin Shores is “stuck” with trying to track down someone he sees as “some prima donna college student.” But after he has a phone conversation with Keenan, Dustin becomes convinced that the freshman hockey star is hiding something. All of Shannon’s friends have returned home for winter break and are scattered around the country, so Dustin conducts his first round of interviews by phone. By the time he’s able to meet with them personally in January, they’ve all been communicating with one another via texts and social media. Like the old children’s game of telephone, they begin to “remember” and report things that may or may not have happened. Ames moves the third-person narrative back and forth between the present investigation, which eventually leads to Keenan’s trial, and several months earlier, from when Shannon and Keenan first met to the fateful day of her disappearance. The author portrays Dustin as a decent cop who unconsciously transcribes witness statements with just a whiff of bias; Shannon is depicted as a normal coed, gradually testing her wings, and Keenan as a young guy ensnared in events spinning out of control. The book focuses on the frightening consequences of law enforcement officials’ tunnel vision and the pernicious influence of social media and rumor. Ames spent 12 years working in Vermont’s criminal justice system, including four as a part-time prosecutor, so she understands how the system works. In this compelling work of fiction, she lays out the steps by which even good people may be swayed by fear, subtle innuendo, and pressure to hold someone responsible for a tragedy.

A tense, cautionary page-turner from start to finish, with well-defined protagonists and some riveting scenes.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 429

Publisher: Catamount Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

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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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