Gold and O’Clare have their charm, but they tread the same old legal-thriller ground as ever, and busy readers might...

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JUROR NUMBER ELEVEN

Boston attorneys Gold and O’Clare (Uncommon Justice, 2001) for the defense again, this time to help their favorite gangster client beat a murder rap.

Gold’s a middle-aged Jew, O’Clare a female Irish-American Catholic; their office manager is a female African-American; and their chief investigator is an Italian-American ex-homicide cop, recently out of the closet. All this diversity is crammed into the little law firm that could—could beat legal behemoths of every description, that is, because its collective heart is pure and its store of energy boundless. These are qualities that remain intact even in behalf of an unmitigated slob like Big Ben Friedman, even when the murder that this notorious racketeer stands charged with is particularly nasty, the arranged killing of a child. Gold and O’Clare get him off, all right, but their victory is tainted by what has the appearance, at least, of jury tampering. The eponymous Juror #11, hot-looking Conchita Balaguer, has spent a disproportionate amount of trial-time gazing significantly at Mairead O’Clare, who has found the attention both mystifying and unsettling. The prosecution, however, considers it a dead giveaway: Conchita’s been bribed, it seems clear to ADA Jim Seagraves, hot-looking in his own way though dimwitted and bombastic as fictional prosecutors so often are. The trial ends. Mairead, in her office, prepping for her next win, is interrupted by a phone call. Conchita wants to hire her, Mairead learns to her astonishment, and there’s big money in the offer. Agreeing to meet at Conchita’s house, Mairead arrives to find her prospective client strung from the beam of a cathedral ceiling. Naturally, ADA Seagraves fingers bad Big Ben for this crime, too, but after multiple plot- and sub-plot twists, not a few of them extraneous, the little law firm that could, does.

Gold and O’Clare have their charm, but they tread the same old legal-thriller ground as ever, and busy readers might entertain a motion to dismiss.

Pub Date: June 10, 2002

ISBN: 0-399-14886-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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