A superb thriller, thanks to tenacious characters and an unyielding pace.

DÉJÀ-BOOM!

From the Hamlin Park Irregulars series , Vol. 2

A former investigative journalist tries to stop two men, each with vengeance on his mind and access to bombs, in this sequel.

Tina Thomas is shaken by the news of an abortion clinic’s recent bombing a mere 30 minutes from her Chicago suburb. She nearly died in a similar blast five years ago in Arlington, Virginia, during her days of investigative reporting. Tina’s internet search and footwork reveal not only another nearby abortion clinic bombing, but also that the detonation originated in the men’s bathroom in both recent cases. Because that location was the Arlington bomber’s signature, Tina believes he may be out for revenge, as she, attempting to stop him years ago, shot him. But Tina has another equally pressing concern: the “remaining bad guy” from a case she helped the FBI resolve much more recently. Said baddie isn’t behind bars, and Tina suspects he likewise craves vengeance against her as well as her neighborhood chums: Linda, Molly, and Cassandra (aka the Hamlin Park Irregulars). Each member of the group brings a particular skill set, like Molly, an ex-model who worked for the CIA. And joining them is a new neighbor, David John, who’s trained in threat assessments. While trying to locate the FBI-released bad guy, Tina discovers that he has gotten his hands on C4. And finding the Arlington bomber will prove to be extremely complicated. His target isn’t easy to pinpoint, as it could be Tina, additional abortion clinics, or the assassination of a significant political figure. As in his preceding thriller, Duff (boom-BOOM!, 2017) aptly fuses exhilarating scenes of action and suspense with the more down-to-earth challenges of a stay-at-home mom. Though the Hamlin Park Irregulars stress they’re not superheroes, they’re all exceedingly capable. Linda, for example, with degrees in computer science, accounting, and law, is a former attorney, an exceptional hacker, and an expectant mother. These returning characters are indicative of the consistency between the series’ first two books (less than a week has passed between the stories). The FBI-related case and residual baddie are direct links to the earlier novel. Throughout both installments, Tina has been steadfast in continually potty-training her 2-year-old daughter, Kerry —with only moderate success. As the menaces in this volume are pre-existing (from Tina’s past), tension is established from the beginning and rarely lets up. This is especially true in the latter half, once Tina verifies that someone is watching, tracking, and/or listening to her. Violence, though restrained, also increases and prompts arresting images; one brutal encounter ends with Tina noting “clotted blood on my shorts” and “dried blood under my fingernails.” Nevertheless, there are a couple of notable plot twists that most readers will likely predict, though that doesn’t dampen the inevitable peril in which Tina and others find themselves. Duff weaves a few intriguing themes into the narrative, namely old media vs. new media: Tina scoffs at a reporter who tweets her story and follows up with photographs on Facebook and Instagram.

A superb thriller, thanks to tenacious characters and an unyielding pace.

Pub Date: July 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73246-520-6

Page Count: 408

Publisher: K, M & N Publishers, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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