A consummate thriller with some of the best characterization you’ll see all year.

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GATE 76

In his engrossing thriller, Diamond (Impala, 2016, etc.) reminds readers that something as simple as a wrong turn can be the difference between life and death.

Whether in his first career as a boxer or his current one as a private investigator, Freddy Ferguson has always known to trust his instincts, the flares of warning that let him know something is very wrong. So when he’s flying home from San Francisco to D.C. and finds a woman in the security line piquing his interest, he’s sure she’s trouble, but he can’t help looking anyway. She appears to be unduly encouraged by two men to board a flight to Honolulu, but she deplanes at the last second, disguises herself, and hops a flight to Chicago. That, the bruises on her wrists, and the two men who made sure she got on the Honolulu flight would be enough to cause alarm. But when Freddy gets back to D.C. and learns that the Honolulu plane exploded over Santa Cruz, it’s clear why his instincts were triggered. When Freddy’s partner, Ed Hartwell, pulls him into the investigation, it doesn’t take the PI long to find out the woman’s name is Anna Brook and that she’s well-hidden. Just how deep the rabbit hole goes, Freddy can’t say. But he’s sure going to find out. The prose here is strong and solid, giving the reader an immediate sense of place and voice through Freddy’s first-person narration. Plus, it’s rare to see writing that so effectively blends action with characterization. Not only do readers have a crystal-clear vision of Anna right from the start, they’re also provided insight into Freddy’s dog-with-a-bone personality and sense of curiosity. That should be enough to hook most readers, but there are also breakneck twists and turns along with lots of backstory, particularly through flashbacks to Freddy’s past and his regrets.

A consummate thriller with some of the best characterization you’ll see all year.

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9963507-6-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Stolen Time Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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

FLY AWAY

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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