An entertaining and illuminating romp through interconnected and delightfully suspect organizations.




Curatolo (Campanilismo, 2013) mixes classic Mafia-fiction tropes with the twists and turns of the pharmaceutical industry in this thriller.

Jimmy Delvecchio and Frank Serono are finally on the top of the world—or close enough, anyway. As partners at the head of a successful pharmaceutical discovery company, focused on novel antibiotics, the two have managed to consistently stay on the cutting edge, despite competing with pharmaceutical giants. But although both of them are savvy in business and research, they also have their biases and baggage. Jimmy comes from a Mafia family, and although he paid his way out of the game by selling his online pharmacy, he can’t refuse when an uncle asks him for help in selling a truckload of stolen prescription drugs. Meanwhile, Frank’s life is much more conventional—until his temper gets the better of him and he goes on a crusade to debunk the snake oil salesmen hocking naturopathic “medicines” while flaunting bogus degrees. As Frank’s science blog draws attention and Jimmy nudges his uncle to sell the merchandise internationally, the two end up under fire from everyone from the mob to the government to herbal remedy schemers; they even turn on each other, and there’s no telling how they’ll get out of their many troubles. Although this novel is a follow-up to Curatolo’s Campanilismo, readers don’t need to worry about jumping in cold. There’s plenty of detail and characterization from the beginning, and there aren’t any characters or circumstances that readers are expected to know going in. Not only that, but the text relates the breadth of its subject matter in a concise way, leaving the reader with a much greater understanding of organized crime, the pharmaceutical industry, medical research and development, and the natural medicine industry than he or she did before. As a result, there’s plenty of exposition throughout, but it rarely slows down the pace of the story. Finally, the main characters are sharp and incisive, clearly demonstrating who they are and what they value in the world, making their conflicts and interactions with colorful supporting players all the more intriguing.

An entertaining and illuminating romp through interconnected and delightfully suspect organizations.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9896566-2-7

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Bayberry Institute LLC

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2018

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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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