EAGLES OF FIRE

USAF Major General Richard ``Duke'' James, the high-flying hero of The Phalanx Dragon (1994) and other of Rizzi's technothrillers, does earthbound battle against savage North Koreans and a vicious home-front foe in this latest test of his considerable mettle. When Han Sinchon, the aging head of North Korea's Special Forces, gets word to the US (through Communist China) that he's prepared to launch a coup that could lead to the reuniting of his partitioned country, the White House details Duke to meet with him on Langau, a barren island in the Sea of Japan. Hedging its bets, however, Beijing informs Pyongyang about the American officer's mission, and Allan Manning, the US President's coke-snorting chief of staff (a closet homosexual who's being blackmailed by his estranged wife), is bent on sabotaging it to keep James from earning the National Security Advisor's post he covets for himself. Manning betrays Duke (and his country) to arms merchant Carl Hawkens whose Pakistani associate, Ghaith Bandar, is the go-between on deals that could upgrade the nuclear capabilities of Iran as well as North Korea and permit renegade Vietnamese to export biological weapons. When Duke reaches the rocky shores of Langau, then, the enemy is waiting for him. While the resourceful emissary strives to keep himself and his elderly contact alive, Washington mounts a massive rescue effort that soon pits an AWACS-directed squadron of F-15E Eagles against the Pyongyang military regime's Russian-made interceptors in a genuinely gripping series of aerial engagements. Duke lives to fight another day, albeit at no small cost in blood and high-tech equipment. Furious state-of-the-art action on land, at sea, and (especially) in the air, plus credibly malefic skullduggery behind the lines, will speed most readers past the holes in a plot charitably characterized as serviceable.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 1996

ISBN: 1-55611-491-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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

SUMMER ISLAND

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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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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