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by Lisa Brackmann
Midnight Ink, September 2018
432 pages
ISBN: 0738759473

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Social media coordinator Sarah Price harbors a secret that could ruin not just her life, but the campaign of the congressman she works for. As election day draws near, she and the campaign are hit with tragedies much worse than losing supporters.

News reporter Casey Chang is always looking for her next big story. After she's injured in a mass shooting, she focuses on the man behind the incident. As she discovers more about her shooter, she falls down a rabbit hole bigger than she anticipated.

Sarah and Casey are soon drawn together, connected by an on-line hate group called True Men. Everyone is a target, but Sarah and Casey are the highest prize. Dodging harassment, stalking, and attempted murders, the women begin to uncover the truth behind True Men and how they can take them down. However, they must figure out how to keep their friends and colleagues out of the literal crossfire.

Brackmann paints a devastating picture of what could happen in our world at any point. It is easy to forget that we are reading fiction. And perhaps that is the scariest part of BLACK SWAN RISING. I try to believe that these tragedies will never happen here, yet there is something irrevocably real on every page that foretells a possible future.

You can't read this novel without connecting to something you've heard in the news. The tragedies brought on by True Men are very similar to the same tragedies we see almost everyday. Mass shootings, random killings, vandalism, doxing and online harassment, nothing is off limits, and no one is safe.

Yet, not all is terror.

Every character develops well, and they all have some trait that makes them unashamedly human. From the dedicated congressman to his determined opponent, from the shy co-worker to the oblivious social media coordinator, every character has something anyone can see in themselves. There are relationships built and broken and repaired, lives that go on touched and untouched by the events the True Men inspire, and everyone has a hand in trying to make the world a better one. Make no mistake, the good in humanity is the core of this novel.

I only wish the perspectives could have helped me understand the characters more. While Sarah and Casey are the main characters, there are several others we are introduced to, and often their points of view are intermingled, interrupting the on-going narrative.

BLACK SWAN RISING is slow going, picking up in action for a chapter, and then quickly slowing down for several. Even halfway through, you are still questioning the same events from the start and are no closer to connecting any dots. I was left with more questions than answers, and while that can encourage continued conversations, the questions I'm left with only obscure the story.

However, this is offset by wonderful characters who do their best to bring light where it is needed most. BLACK SWAN RISING is still a page-turning thriller that will leave you wanting more. It is beautifully written, terrifyingly relatable, and has realistic characters and issues that hit close to home.

Keshena Hanson recently earned a degree in English from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and was published in the University's Sheepshead Review. Her love for mystery started with Blue's Clues, and now she reads any mystery she can get her hands on.

Reviewed by Keshena Hanson, September 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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