An intelligent, thought-provoking adventure story and a fine debut.

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Wrong Place, Wrong Time

A tense debut action-thriller that hinges on a pair of related kidnappings.

At the start of Jacobs’ taut novel, Tsarina “Tsara” Abrams lives comfortably in the New England suburbs with her husband, David Adelman, and their two kids, Abbie and Josh. One day, she receives an engraved invitation from her uncle, businessman Castle Thornlocke, to attend a charity fundraiser at the palatial Thornlocke estate in Libertyville, N.H. The fundraiser is for a worthy cause, a cancer center, and Tsara’s brother Court has also been invited. Their relationship with their uncle has always been tense and adversarial, but it seems that Uncle Cass’ new wife, Alicia, has mellowed him somewhat, and Tsara believes that his invitation might be an attempt to mend fences. She makes the trip to the New Hampshire mountains, and at first, all seems well—but her first night under her uncle’s roof, she’s kidnapped by two men and brought to a remote cabin in the woods. They explain that her uncle is holding one of the kidnappers’ children hostage (along with half a dozen others’) in his estate’s wine cellar in order to coerce them into paying outstanding debts. Her uncle, it seems, is a ruthless power broker, with the corrupt local police entirely at his disposal, and Tsara’s desperate kidnappers see no alternative but to threaten him using similar methods. Jacobs presents the ensuing tense moral and tactical standoff with smooth skill and intense readability. Her sense of the New Hampshire landscape is vividly atmospheric (“The sky was azure, wisped with occasional brushes of clouds, and the trees were rocket bursts of fall color”), and her characters are refreshingly three-dimensional; by the end, Jacobs even makes a monstrous villain such as Thornlocke understandable, if not sympathetic. The novel is fast-paced right from the end of the first chapter, and the dialogue is crisply believable throughout. Fans of mystery writers such as Lisa Scottoline and William Kent Krueger will find much to entertain them here.

An intelligent, thought-provoking adventure story and a fine debut.

Pub Date: June 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615805597

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Linden Tree Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2013

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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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