A deliberately convoluted detective tale that occasionally stumbles but consistently delights.


When Killers Collide

The presence of a potential terrorist group and a serial killer’s return amp up two private investigators’ deceptively simple caseload in this thriller.

Harry Powell may have made the right call when informing cops of Larry Janakowsky’s dead body at the New York hotel where Harry works security. His boss, however, promptly fires him, apparently for calling her at night. Janakowsky had been a private eye in Wilmington, North Carolina, the same place where Bernie Mannion asks Harry to help at his private detective agency. Janakowsky’s scrawled note, meanwhile, seems to associate armed forces–protesting radicals, the Military Liberation Front, with an upcoming Wilmington July 4th celebration. Sure enough, the group’s in North Carolina and includes David Dodd, a Marine who may be court-martialed for involving himself with government protesters. (Bernie’s looking into that via client —and David’s lawyer—JD Henzlein.) The mysterious death of Col. Bogart, reputedly spearheading the court-martial, is certainly suspicious. Meanwhile, missing girls who are turning up dead share similarities with recently uncovered skeletal remains of 12 women in Lebanon, Indiana, buried for nearly a decade. Only readers know that serial killer Lloyd Curtin, now a Wilmington resident, is methodically choosing his victims. Bernie’s finding his office ransacked and Harry’s dodging gunshots must mean that the gumshoes are getting close to exposing a killer—or terrorists. Olsinski (Death by RX, 2009) creates an intricate web connecting characters and subplots. Though they rely on happenstance too often, the links generate endless surprises. Lloyd, for one, is blood-related to a significant character, while David’s Army sister Carolyn once had a relationship with Harry. Characters are equally complex, with some, like Harry and Carolyn, with tragedies in their pasts. Others are darkly humorous: Lloyd, proud of his pirate ancestry, is upset the media’s dubbed him the Goat Man; the Lebanon bodies were found near a goat farm. Notable mistakes unfortunately mar the narrative: conflicting reports put the Indiana victims’ ages at all under 30 and also late 20s to early 30s; and Bernie tells colleagues his Lebanon cop nephew Robert is his cousin. Nevertheless, the book ends on a high note, a realistic conclusion in which not every murder is solved.

A deliberately convoluted detective tale that occasionally stumbles but consistently delights.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941859-38-4

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet