The mandarins of the new world order sure make a mistake when they pick on retired D.C. cop Eddie Nickles (Playing the Dozens, 1990), who's just trying to buy his daughter a graduation gift. To pick up a quick $10,000 toward Priscilla's Mustang, Eddie agrees to take on the case of Toddy and Helen Grehm, slain stalwarts of the Iberia Trading Company, at the behest of Grehm friend Garland Bolles. There's a clear lead the Metropolitan Police haven't followed up: a photo of a man trying to use Helen's ATM card a few hours after her murder. But when Eddie and a homeboy buddy identify the ATM thief, he swears he didn't kill any white folks. Shortly after, he's dead, and things don't look too good for Eddie, who barely manages to repel a pair of masked intruders who've obviously been sent to his house to tie off a loose end. Eddie's convalescence is enlivened by the discoveries that (1) Garland Bolles doesn't exist; (2) Iberia Trading is actually a cover for a nest of American spies, counterspies, and assorted wheeler-dealers; (3) not everybody in the tight little peninsula of Iberia and its kissing cousin, the Special Projects Directorate, gets along with everybody else (though some of them are downright matey with their Russian counterparts); (4) Helen Grehm's funeral may have been premature; and (5) this cloak-and- dagger stuff seems to have been furnished with all the paraphernalia from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (laughably innocuous front organization, unflappable security director, loose-cannon operatives enslaved by their own lusts—well, maybe it's not all out of U.N.C.L.E.). Coolly surveying the formidable array of international talent arrayed against him, Eddie takes them all on—in a cheeky, intermittently amusing little-man fantasy that tries, but fails, to do for the international espionage community what The Doorbell Rang did for the F.B.I. The Gallant Little Tailor vs. the CIA, the KGB, and the harried reader's credulity. (First printing of 75,000; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: July 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-670-85129-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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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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