A complex, multilayered, and psychologically acute tale about a predatory physician: well done.

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DOC DOC ZEUS

A NOVEL OF WHITE COAT CRIME

As a narcissistic gynecologist targets his next vulnerable patient, he comes under suspicion by the state medical board’s inexperienced investigator in this novel.

At age 14, Diane Morrell became pregnant and gave the baby up for adoption. Now 16, she continues to see Dr. Hartwicke Zeus, 43, a gynecologist, for vague follow-up appointments at the Christian counseling center where he volunteers. Supposedly, he’s helping Diane deal with the changes to her body and offer advice. Actually, Zeus takes the opportunity to touch the girl sexually and groom her for a relationship. Handsome and married (“Legally, yes. But not really”), the doctor pursues Diane with attention, drugs, presents, and visits to his yacht and condo. For her, the sex is fun, but the way he talks to her is better. For Zeus, it’s all a game: “He wasn’t going to be able to dupe” Diane “like the stupid cunts he’d got off on before. But if he could slowly break her and train her to do what he wanted, it would be ten times the fun.” Meanwhile, Dave Green, 25, new in his job as investigator for the Board of Medicine, learns of Zeus’ past abuses. But when Dave keeps digging, he is forced to confront a rigged system that makes prosecution seem unlikely. These matters of affluence, class, and status also affect Dave’s relationship with his girlfriend; she comes from wealth while Dave struggles beneath six figures in student loan debt. As Dave works to close a legal trap on Zeus, the doctor makes increasingly grandiose, malicious, and reckless decisions that could endanger Diane. With Zeus, Keech (Hot Box in the Pizza District, 2015, etc.) draws a remarkably accurate picture of an especially dangerous sociopath—not the serial killer of the public imagination but a white-coated, well-educated, and highly respected doctor. Zeus uses his good looks, prosperity, and prestige to molest, drug, and rape his patients, counting on the system and his network of lies to protect him. Keech ably shows the step-by-step process through which Zeus manipulates those around him. For example, with money troubles and divorce looming, Zeus even tells his 12-year-old daughter, Kyra, that the split is because her mother thinks the girl is trying to tempt her father sexually. Keech also is perceptive about what drives Diane to accept Zeus’ suggestions; she’s lonely, feels blame for the pregnancy, and wants to feel good about herself. The story’s minor characters are also well-drawn and contribute importantly to the plot, particularly Robert, a young would-be pastor who keeps pestering Diane because Jesus wants them to be together, and Woody, a high school friend with surprising inner fortitude despite a sketchy past. The book’s strengths include how Dave’s conflict with his girlfriend touches on real-world economic and ethical concerns that aren’t easily solved. The plot moves with energy, building toward a dramatic but believable conclusion. It’s hugely satisfying watching the efforts of Dave and his team as they try to expose Zeus’ lies.

A complex, multilayered, and psychologically acute tale about a predatory physician: well done.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 289

Publisher: Real Nice Books

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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