GLITTERBUG

Humbug is more like it for thriller #14 from Kenrick (Neon Tough, 1988, etc.): an absurd and nearly monotonic tale of an amnesiac caught in an international power struggle. The single note is a strong one, though, as the narrator wakes up amnesiac in a hospital bed. He is told that he is Jerry Parrish and that he lost his memory in a car crash. Visits by his brother and girlfriend fail to jog his brain, but Jerry goes back to his old job anyway, as a finder of missing persons for Acis Corp., where he shone because of his hot hunches; apparently he was on the trail of Kurt Frohman, a credit-jumping German scientist, when he crashed. Revelations, including prowess at street-fighting, abound as Jerry retraces his steps; they culminate, after he catches his Acis boss in a lie, in Jerry's being shanghaied by men who tell him that his new/old life was a lie. He's really Jack Penrose, federal intelligence agent, who, after his accident, was kidnapped and set up in a false life by Acis, which wanted to use his hunches to find Frohman for the Chinese, covetous of his mysterious new breakthrough, ``glitterbug''—which the feds are after too. So Jack begins life anew, with a fresh family and girlfriend, and sniffs further along Frohman's trail—until he catches his ``father'' in a lie, whereupon he's snatched by men who claim to be the real feds and who explain that his latest new/old life was yet another lie engineered by Acis and that he's really a divorcÇ with a daughter and can he please help them find Frohman? Kenrick keeps this up longer than you might think or want, until ``Jack'' kills the bad guys and finds both Frohman and a life he can live with. With formulaic action, glossy scenery, and mechanical twists, this reads just like a film novelization; in fact, Tri-Star has already bought up the story as a Bruce Willis vehicle.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1991

ISBN: 0-88184-748-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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