A fresh and engaging take on the familiar hard-boiled detective novel.

A COLD BLOODED RAIN

FROM THE FILES OF MAXWELL FLOYD, PRIVATE EYE

From the Maxwell Floyd series , Vol. 1

A disgraced New York City police detective–turned–PI takes a shot at redemption in Leton’s debut crime tale.

In a noir-ish future, homicide cop Maxwell Floyd’s rule-breaking pursuit of a criminal ended in the accidental death of a 7-year-old girl. He started drinking (again) to cope with the guilt, but what seemed the solution to one problem eventually became the cause of other difficulties in his life. After losing his job and his wife due to his increasingly frequent intoxication and resultant misconduct, Max was forced to try to make ends meet as a private investigator. He’s still struggling with his drinking habit, though, so this is easier said than done; he spends most of his time in Sam Duggin’s Fifth Street Bar, chatting with the attractive owner and bartender, Molly Mitchell. When Max is offered a case by one Mr. Fletcher from the police commissioner’s office—if he completes it to his employer’s satisfaction, he may earn his cop job back—he can’t say no. The crime at hand: the brutal murder of Claire Hemsley, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. Max must solve the crime without stepping on the toes of the cops who are already working the case, and the PI is motivated and anxious to beat his competition. However, it soon becomes clear that Fletcher hasn’t been completely forthright about the details of the situation—and he may not have been honest about why he came to Max in the first place. As the private eye tracks down leads and closes in on a suspect, he even starts to wonder about his own sanity. Leton’s fictional world is wonderfully distinctive. Although parts of it feel as if they’ve been lifted right out of Raymond Chandler’s work, as readers get deeper into the story, they realize that it takes place in a New York full of datapads, hovercraft, and hand-held weapon scanners. The prose is tense and moody during the suspenseful scenes as well as during the action sequences: “As I ran toward the riverbank, two Air Patrol flyers came screaming in from the distance….Their wailing sirens and thunderous fan-jets provided only a brief satisfaction.” Max fits the hard-boiled detective template to a T, and yet the author somehow avoids making him into a boring stereotype. The PI is just messed up and unreliable enough to make his demons feel authentic and not just like set dressing. Readers will enjoy living inside the detective’s head as he makes his way through the city streets, and they’ll savor attempting to figure out the crime along with him. The novel hits all the familiar notes of the PI genre plus a few more; its self-awareness and enthusiasm for its milieu are infectious and make the book even more enjoyable. This is only the first in an ongoing series of Max Floyd books, and readers will certainly be curious to see where Leton takes his gumshoe in the future.

A fresh and engaging take on the familiar hard-boiled detective novel.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-979427-26-5

Page Count: 392

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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