Another surefire horror outing with realistic heroes from a new specialist in the genre.

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Winter

A CROW CREEK NOVEL

This third installment of a series examines apocalyptic events in the heart of the American South.

Picking up where his previous book left off, Drago (Queensboro, 2015, etc.) returns to the small and seemingly ordinary North Carolina town of Crow Creek, the center of that earlier adventure, and to several characters from that horror tale, including Sheriff Brad Gleason, his ex-wife Shana, and “a certain band of inadequate heroes” who’d saved the day (and quite possibly the world). As this new novel opens, twin catastrophes are looming: first, Amanda Simmons, the nefarious owner of the ambitiously evil biotech company Carolina Entech, plots to rebuild the neighboring town of Winter, which was hit by two atomic bombs back in 1960. Second, just as the plot begins to unfold, Drago’s extended cast of characters—Pastor Thomas Rhodes, a man named Black Jesus, Pastor Aken, Britisher Peter Bally, and a handful of others—gets caught up in a strange, sudden phenomenon: an energy pulse that knocks out all technology in one pregnant instant (“like a stage actor in the West End holding a beat for dramatic effect,” as Peter characterizes it). Gleason and Rhodes, having been tasked by the U.S. government with investigating the goings-on in Winter, must deal with ancient cults, corporate evil, and the walking dead. It’s the kind of overheated stew Drago seems to enjoy preparing, and he once again does a winning, skillful job, combining increasingly over-the-top, Stephen King-style horror elements with a quietly confident and quite convincing portrait of everyday life in the North Carolina Piedmont region. His heroes are believable strivers with feet of clay, and his ear for the rhythms of their dialogue helps to bring them alive. And as in the previous Crow Creek work, the book’s villains are energetically drawn and its sense of evil itself is both starkly Baptist and refreshingly complicated (“That’s what the Devil does,” readers are told at one point. “Don’t so much as go for you as make you go for him”).

Another surefire horror outing with realistic heroes from a new specialist in the genre.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-78280-4

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Gold Avenue Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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