A smart and satisfying archaeological thriller in the vein of Dan Brown.


Travels in Elysium

A Greek archaeological dig holds deep secrets.

At the beginning of Azuski’s (The Rose-Tinted Menagerie, 2012) latest novel, 22-year-old Nicholas Pedrosa is fresh out of college. He’s stuck in a dead-end real estate job in England when he applies for a job on an archaeological dig on the Greek island of Santorini under the direction of the legendary archaeologist Marcus James Huxley. His interview with Huxley’s frosty Russian assistant, Svetlana Bé, goes so poorly that Pedrosa assumes he’s not getting the job—until boat tickets and travel details arrive in the mail. He travels to Greece, intrigued to learn along the way that Huxley’s expedition has uncovered mysterious 5,000-year-old hieroglyphics at the site. Curiosity turns to dread when Pedrosa arrives at Santorini only to find Huxley and his associates attending a funeral—the funeral of Huxley’s previous young assistant. Pedrosa gets a decidedly unfriendly reception from the great man, and he’s promptly confronted with two mysteries—What actually happened to his predecessor? And what happened to all the ancient inhabitants of the city that was buried in a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago on the site of Huxley’s dig? The homes and workplaces of those ancient inhabitants are perfectly preserved, but unlike other famous disaster sites, such as Pompeii, there’s no trace of any people. Azuski knits these plotlines together with considerable skill, contextualizing them within the wider philosophical background of a search for Plato’s mythical lost city of Atlantis and infusing them with plenty of memorable descriptions (“The dawn chorus woke me at five,” Pedrosa says, “Athens’ version of it, that is, cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes racing the clock, chasing the sunrise”). The imperious Huxley and his private agenda dominate the plot, and the baffled, inquisitive Pedrosa eventually becomes a hero to root for as he navigates the various personalities of Huxley’s dig team. Ongoing digressions into Santorini’s distant past jar at first but ultimately reinforce the novel’s taut, well-constructed climax.

A smart and satisfying archaeological thriller in the vein of Dan Brown.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-3952401521

Page Count: 540

Publisher: Iridescent Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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