Surprisingly reflective tough guys elevate an overloaded thriller.

The Deadly Tropic Snow

In this military adventure, a tight-knit team goes on a mission to find who’s responsible for poisoning drug users.

In Unnecessary Evils (2010), Ramsey introduced an elite, covert special operations unit tasked with infiltrating global hot spots. Led by U.S. Army Maj. Tom Curran, the team consists of Curran’s best friend, Chief Warrant Officer Constantine “Connie” Caraballo, staff sergeants Alex Fillippi and Oscar Perez, and Chief Warrant Officer Calvin King. In this installment, set some two years after the first, the team’s equilibrium is shaken; Connie is still pulling himself together after his wife was killed in an accident, and now his cousin Sal Sontoro has died. Worse yet, the team fears their recent covert operation—to implant tracking devices in illegal drug supplies—is related to the poisoning of Sal and other drug users. As the team vows to find out the truth behind the deaths, Curran gets encouragement from a strange but oddly familiar man, who tells him, “The mission you’re on now can tip the balance of good and evil.” A series of exciting, dangerous, and often violent escapades take the men through Panama, Mexico, Florida, and Haiti, from a cruise ship to a border town to a gated jungle lair. As the team handles unexpected twists, they find themselves confronting a conspiracy at the highest levels. Ramsey’s attention to character lifts this novel above standard guys-and-guns stories. These men have emotional as well as violent work to do, and their camaraderie is touching. Some readers may disagree with aspects of the book’s ideology, particularly regarding drugs, but the characters do discuss such issues thoughtfully. Ramsey also has a good ear for snappy dialogue and seems to know his military stuff. Unlike the lean, muscular protagonists, though, the book is overweight and slow, as it’s larded with inessential logistical details, editorializing, and information dumps (“[Belize’s] largest city, Belize City, is a peninsula only 3 ½ miles wide and 2 ½ miles high. The city is home to a third of the country’s population, about 300,000 people”). Its punctuation could also have used a cleanup.

Surprisingly reflective tough guys elevate an overloaded thriller.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4575-1436-4

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Dog Ear

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2016

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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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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