A focused, precise thriller; an improvement over the first installment.



Computer scientist Evan Olsson returns to help track down the people who stole a high-tech laser before they can use it in Barthel’s (Death by Probability, 2014) techno-thriller.

A laser demo at the Halstead Aeronautic Laboratory for customer Enterprise AeroSystems turns deadly when two gunmen emerge from the audience and attack. The armed men steal documents and data disks, and Evan and FBI colleague Matt Emerson suspect industrial espionage as a motive. The laser, however, mysteriously vanishes during its shipment to EAS, and the stakes immediately soar. Circumstances become personal when someone sabotages Evan’s bike. The agent also believes an old enemy is trailing him—one who may not be quite as dead as Evan had hoped. In the second installment of Barthel’s series, Evan shines a little brighter. While he’s initially approached by Matt to help the bureau understand the technological jargon, he eventually displays his skills in surveillance, scrutinizing the whereabouts of dubious people like an artist who uses lasers in his art. Evan’s artificial intelligence, Al, offers only a modicum of assistance, but he does act as a sounding board. Their conversations are a highlight and resemble online chats. The prose is surprisingly light considering the story’s sober content, but it helps keep the plot moving. Al even provides comic relief, using alternating avatars to accommodate each particular situation, including a sagelike grandmotherly figure and the more overt Sigmund Freud. A second plot, detailing Evan’s affair with his girlfriend’s sister, Holly, who’s married, occasionally competes with the main plotline, but overall, it’s an effective counterbalance. Evan, for example, must struggle to keep sex and work separate, which isn’t an easy task when Holly (and her hubby, George) are HAL employees.

A focused, precise thriller; an improvement over the first installment.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1478744818

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2015

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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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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.


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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