A cartoonish thriller that treads too often into male fantasies about dominating women.


From the Andrew MacCrimmon series , Vol. 5

A doctor and crime fighter gets pulled into an Old West–style showdown in this fifth installment of a series.

Dr. Andrew MacCrimmon is having a rough couple of days. First, he walks in on his wife, Karen, in bed with her personal trainer, Pavo Makkonen. Next, Andrew tries to shoot Pavo, but the naked man manages to escape down the back alleyway. Then, Andrew throws Karen bodily from the house with a few choice expletives. A few days later, during an aimless drive to help figure out what to do with himself, he is mugged, carjacked, and left unconscious in the desert. He is discovered by good Samaritan Bob Seibel, the owner of the BS Tavern and Grill in Chamberton, California. In exchange for Bob’s kindness, Andrew agrees to run the place while Bob and his wife go on vacation. It seems like a nice, calm spot to get his thoughts in order, slinging beers to the few regulars who come through the door. Not so. Enter Lena Montoya, a mysterious woman who looks remarkably like Karen: “The resemblance was astonishing—the same triangular face and squared off chin; the same high cheekbones, straight nose, and strong mouth.” What’s more, she seems to be on the run from someone—perhaps the same men who mugged Andrew. Even after he learns that her husband is a ruthless Mexican drug lord, he allows himself to become enamored by the beautiful Lena. He hatches a plan to keep her safe from her husband’s hired men, who have begun to swarm the area. At the same time, he begins receiving anonymous letters about the fate of his wife and son back in San Francisco. The situation quickly reveals itself to be much more complex—and interconnected—than Andrew realized. Caught between his past and present, is it even possible for Andrew to keep everyone he loves safe? Croft’s (Thorns of Remembrance, 2019, etc.) novel successfully summons the feel of an old action movie, particularly its neo-Western setting filled with outlaws and henchmen. But the book quickly and unintentionally turns into a parody of itself. The author seeks to portray Andrew as an honorable, aging doctor/brawler whom everyone finds attractive. One of Karen’s friends observes, “He’s so muscular, and he looks so ageless, like Sean Connery or Paul Newman,” and even the cartel members who mug him remember him as “good-looking.” Yet Andrew’s jealous, violent, and frantic behavior early on is so disturbing that his good-guy antics later won’t salvage readers’ opinions of him. He destroys Pavo’s motorcycle while fantasizing that it’s Karen. Later, he “blew his nose and wiped his eyes, and whispered to the room, as if in disbelief, ‘I’m a cuckold.’ And again, louder: ‘I’m a cuckold!’ ” When he calms down, he writes Karen a note, the first sentence of which reads: “Even the most sincere apology would be ridiculously inadequate for the brutal way I treated you, something like Hitler apologizing to the Jews.” The ending—where readers learn the context of how Karen came to sleep with Pavo—is needlessly exploitative (and not the first time Croft has gone to that well). 

A cartoonish thriller that treads too often into male fantasies about dominating women.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4811-0361-9

Page Count: 305

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2020

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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