Formidable bad guys help retain steady, nail-biting tension for the good guys and for readers.

Mrs. Valentine's Revenge

In Ginsberg’s debut thriller, a private detective and a widow become targets of London thugs when looking into the presumed murder of the woman’s husband.

Susan Valentine doesn’t believe her husband Robert’s death was the result of a car accident. She’s sure someone killed the Wall Street trader, who’d been questioning huge withdrawals from a series of accounts at his firm. She hires Jerry Green, who specializes in financial crimes but takes the case since he and Robert were friends. Jerry suspects that murderers with resources for such a coverup must have a lot of power. And he’s right: Oliver Millhouse and Russell Enderley are English businessmen running a weapons-smuggling scheme. They have a knack for killing off anyone nosing around their operation, and Jerry, along with people close to him, may be next on their list. Ginsberg’s novel churns out a hefty amount of suspense by first introducing Millhouse, who recruits pilot Scottie Simons with intimidation and a bit of torture courtesy of his henchmen. Jerry is wisely cautious from the beginning of the case, using an alias and hiding behind a wig and glasses when, for example, enlisting a hacker to help. He’s understandably nervous that the baddies may be able to connect him to anyone he knows, including his employees, paralegal Daisy and receptionist Marie. The title is a little misleading: Jerry, who’s indisputably the protagonist, is driven by his own vengeance just as much as Susan’s, and he eventually wants to stop Millhouse and Enderley because of their apparent intent to harm Jerry’s female pals. Ginsberg keeps the technology aspect at a minimum, but he does show how difficult it is to stay offline. Marie, for instance, who’s hiding with Daisy, simply powers up her Kindle (to combat boredom), which could lead armed villains right to them. The author ups the ante in the latter half by moving the Manhattan detective to London to team up with Scotland Yard. He likewise implies Jerry’s attraction to the widow Valentine, a potentially interesting subplot that unfortunately never takes off.

Formidable bad guys help retain steady, nail-biting tension for the good guys and for readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5152-1963-7

Page Count: 300

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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