This collection astutely highlights the spy thriller, though the much shorter tales offer solid support.

Fables of the CIA

Officers and analysts struggle, whether in the field or behind a desk, in this collection of CIA–centric stories.

Grayson (Strange Science Fiction and Fantasy Omnibus, 2014, etc.) offers only four tales in this book, but they vary in both tone and length. Fortunately, the most exciting story is also the longest, the novella-sized “But Who Pursues?” In it, CIA desk jockey Steve Rogers’ poor job performance is the result of losing his wife and sons. He’s saved from unemployment by pal Mac, who also lands Steve an assignment: tag along with Navy officer George Caruthers to Zurich. Steve, unaware of Caruthers’ objective, is taken aback when the man chains an attaché case to his wrist and hands him a revolver. Things get worse when a bloody Caruthers later returns and, before dying, warns Steve to run. Steve heads back to the U.S. as quickly and covertly as possible, but he’s fairly certain someone’s trailing him, especially once people who try to help him wind up dead. He finally takes the offensive, using funds (courtesy of Caruthers) to buy a newspaper and to hopefully draw out his pursuers with headlines teasing a tell-all article. The story’s rife with suspense; readers, like Steve, don’t know who’s after him, making every character a suspect. The book’s opening tale, “The Station Chief,” is markedly different, an irreverent account of a chief in Senegal, West Africa, so overbearing that agents look for a way to have him transferred somewhere else. In the delightful but straight-faced “The Successful Intelligence Officer,” a by-the-book officer may get the agency to reinstate his terminated recruiting gig by doing something dishonest. “The Intelligence Research Analyst” closes the book with a rather modest tale of an analyst, disgruntled with writing reports, contemplating another position. The author’s meticulous prose works best in “Pursues,” its protagonist appropriately scrupulous in everything he does, including tracking down old contacts or finding places to sleep. Humor, meanwhile, is relegated to the first story and is incongruently off-center: an officer justifies his affair by claiming that he and his wife’s baby was “a monster, with two heads.”

This collection astutely highlights the spy thriller, though the much shorter tales offer solid support.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-57949-7

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2016

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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