A distinctive page-turner starring a fine new detective.


From above the Arctic Circle comes Dana Eakin, a Dan Brown–style sleuth off to solve her first mystery in this debut novel.

The author Siri Hustvedt once described Iceland as a place where “day never really became night.” Cassin’s book—a kind of archaeological thriller—takes place in that northerly nation, and it’s a wonder that so many dark secrets can hide in a country where the sun never sets part of the year. Like a number of mysteries, the tale opens with a body, this one just barely peeking out from the thick ice. But the corpse is also nearly half a millennium old, and its slow thaw lets loose a bevy of dangers both ancient and modern. The author tasks a number of compelling characters with solving the body’s mysteries, but none of these figures are as intriguing as Cassin’s protagonist. Eakin is a remarkable new heroine—a smart, young anthropologist whose scientific acumen just happens to make her an excellent detective. (Perhaps her most recent literary forebear is Sophie Neveu of The Da Vinci Code.) Cassin hints that this might be just the first of many Eakin novels, and if that’s true, she’s off to a superb start. This tale is intricate and inventive, and its source material—Icelandic culture, epidemiology, lichenology—is quite unusual. That is not to say there aren’t some first-book wrinkles to iron out. Cassin has a tendency to overwrite. Once, when Eakin opens a heavy door, it is “as though she were entering a vault.” The author continues: “That door was authentic archival vault material,” and just a few lines later mentions the same “vault-like doors.” It’s tough to hammer a metaphor home any harder. Furthermore, the chapters—especially early on—are so brief that the narrative sometimes gets disjointed. (By Page 18, Cassin is already on Chapter 10.) It’s as if the author is so excited by her project that she wants to tell readers all of it at the same time. But as the book stretches out, Cassin relaxes. Readers do, too, and the remainder of the work is a thrill and a delight. Audiences will surely hope that this won’t be Eakin’s only case.

A distinctive page-turner starring a fine new detective.

Pub Date: May 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-81-8253-545-9

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Cyberwit.net

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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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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