A well-constructed, action-packed novel.

Fast Track To Glory

One man’s quest for power centers on an ancient artifact in this international thriller.

Nina Monte is an academic expert on religious antiquities and has spent much of her adult life thinking only about the past. But that changes when she’s recruited by an Italian government agency to evaluate a relic found on a 15th-century galley. This prospect excites Nina, as she feels that “something else awaited her there; something, she sensed, that had been there a long, long time. Something of value that was far beyond measurable.” After she arrives at Lake Garda, the relic’s location, she meets lonely hotelier Alessandro Pini, who soon becomes her partner in her adventure. She quickly discovers that the inquiry is actually a ruse by treasure hunter Lammert van der Venn, who’s discovered an ancient stone tablet and wants Nina to decipher its writings. Van der Venn thinks that the tablet’s mantras will grant him power: “I’ll be among those who walked into the Kingdom of Heaven, alive,” he says to Nina, who refuses to help him after finding out what kind of man he is—so he sets his sights on her Indian grandmother Sati who first told her about the tablet years before. Soon the race is on to find Sati, with Nina and Alessandro pitted against van der Ven and his henchmen. Chrusciel (Illusive Intrusion, 2014) uses detailed research to add necessary authenticity to scenes set in Germany, Italy, Austria, and India, such as in this description of Milan’s Piazza del Duomo: “In the middle of the square, to her right, she passed the monument of King Victor Emanuel II, who watched over the Gothic cathedral and other surrounding buildings.” His characters develop throughout the novel, as bookish Nina and mousy Alessandro do more than they ever thought they could do in order to help those they love. The story’s pacing is appropriately breakneck as the couple hurry around the globe and stay just ahead of van der Venn’s lurking shadow. In the end, the tablet’s mysterious powers remain nebulous, but just enough is revealed to suggest that no one should possess them.

A well-constructed, action-packed novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9929574-3-8

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Agato House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 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...

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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