A naughty, catty good time.


A witty debut novel from a pseudonymous writing pair (one is a suspense author, the other a London-based media agent) about a saucy London literary agent eager to go into business for herself.

Tess Drake may have sex appeal, nerves of steel and a knack for making her writer clients rich, but she does not have her independence. Opportunity conveniently knocks when the owner of the Bardwright Agency, Lowell Bardwright, is found dead in what looks like an unfortunate, but kinky, accident. Lowell gave Tess her start, but his icy next-in-command, Cosima, has little love for Tess. The fact that Tess is secretly sleeping with Cosima’s much-younger husband naturally complicates things. (Tess’s code name for him is “Darcy,” but it is hard to imagine Jane Austen approving of their X-rated romps.) Ignoring the solid advice of her close friend Oliver Howard, a talented ex-junkie novelist who suggests she not tangle with Cosima, Tess sets about luring writers to her new agency. She begins with Dorothy Starkwell, an über-successful American children’s author. Loyal Dorothy looks like a sure thing, until a potentially devastating blackmail scheme rears it nasty head. Tess also has to look out for her former best friend Saleema, a professional rival who might be holding onto a teeny grudge against Tess for sleeping with her one-time fiancé. And then there is Nicolas Hadley, the Scotland Yard detective who informs her that Lowell may not have been alone when he died, with all evidence pointing toward Tess being an active participant in his last moments. Murder, even for Tess, is a bit much, so it is up to her to clear her name, as well as sort out her personal life and launch her firm. But with her once-promising career prospects looking bleak, Tess is forced to own up to some of the questionable decisions she has made, if she is really going to have a fresh start. With an insider’s take on the book biz, and an appealingly foul-mouthed heroine, this debut is fast, funny and a bit nasty—not unlike Tess.

A naughty, catty good time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-37944-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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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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