An exciting and unpredictable tale of espionage and adventure in the early 20th century.

The Locket

From the The Rainey Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A debut novel offers political intrigue set within the perilous complexity of the Russian Revolution.

Jeremy Clarke has just returned from France, where he fought as an American soldier in World War I. The son of a wealthy steel magnate, Jeremy now plans to join the family business under the tutelage of his formidable sister, Elizabeth. His plans are temporarily thwarted, however, when a representative from the State Department, Charles Appleton, suddenly arrives unannounced and reveals that Jeremy and Elizabeth’s father, who had vanished in Russia, is still alive. He asks Jeremy to lead a military team—really a small army—into Russia to rescue him and to secure a “package,” the contents of which remain, for the moment, mysterious. Appleton himself is a nebulous fellow, described as a “ghost” with virtually no government file. Jeremy accepts the assignment, and Elizabeth is put in charge of its logistics, which include procuring firearms. While crossing through Romania, Jeremy is taken prisoner and shot while escaping, forcing Elizabeth to take over as commander of the mission. All the while, Russian intelligence tracks the team’s every move, as interested in the package as it is in Elizabeth’s father. Cousins masterfully keeps the story moving at a fast clip, interspersing action at every turn. The inner machinations of the Russian Revolution are numbingly convoluted, and Cousins does a credible job navigating its infinite nuances. The story is driven by the relentless force of Elizabeth’s character, whose motto is: “Observe. Learn. Dominate.” In fact, her bravery—she is only 26 years old— in combat strains credulity: “The rat-tat-tat of the machine gun continued to ring in her ears as she became aware of what was happening around her. She had a job to do and she couldn’t do it lying on her back. She pulled herself up and got back to the gun belt.” But Cousins artfully presents the implausible as easy to digest, a skill that is the hallmark of this relentless thriller. Strictly speaking, this is almost too fantastic a tale to carry the label historical novel, but the author’s research of the period, and of Russia in particular, remains impressive.

An exciting and unpredictable tale of espionage and adventure in the early 20th century.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9948242-1-9

Page Count: 494

Publisher: Corrxan Inc.

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

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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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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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