ABDUCTED

LIZZY GARDNER SERIES #1

Nearly a decade and a half after abducting teenager Lizzy Gardner, her captor is ready to seek revenge on the one who got away, in Ragan’s white-knuckled thriller,

When she was 16-years-old, Lizzy Gardner lied to her parents about spending the night with friends and snuck out with her boyfriend, Jared. When he dropped her off a block from her home, it was just too easy for the kidnapper to switch gears and take Lizzy instead of the Anderson girl. But after two months of torture, including being poisoned and burned, Lizzy escaped. At 30-years-old, she’s now a private investigator who spies on unfaithful spouses and teaches girls how to defend themselves. Jared is now an FBI agent and, after having not spoken to Lizzy since the abduction, he contacts her because the madman who took her is at it again—and he left a personal note for Lizzy with his latest victim. In James Patterson style, Ragan choreographs a tightly woven dance among a large cast who all have a connection to Spiderman, the moniker given to the killer because of his penchant for torturing victims with creepy crawlers. Ragan’s psychopath is on a mission to teach “bad” girls a lesson and punishes them according to their vice. With no shortage of plot swells, Lizzy and Jared, along with Sgt. Jimmy Martin and even Lizzy’s self-defense student, Hayley Hansen, are determined to rescue Spiderman’s latest victim, someone Lizzy would risk her life for. Even the killer’s own sister is looking for him and may hold the clue to his depravity, where slicing a pinky off a victim thrills him. Although the story boasts a couple of oddities, such as why Ragan chose similar names for her characters (Warner, Winters, Walker; Crawford, Crowley) and why nearly every character is on the verge of divorce, or divorced, the masterful storytelling and inventive plot trample these minor inconveniences. Lizzy is Hannibal Lechter’s Clarice, and although parallels to Silence of the Lambs abound, Ragan’s thriller stands on its own. The satisfyingly frightful episode of a calculating cutthroat.

 

Pub Date: May 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463717094

Page Count: 348

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2012

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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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