Public Offerings Book 1: Birthright

In LiVolsi’s debut thriller, a Colorado pharmaceutical firm may hold the key to eradicating AIDS, but powerful people are willing to kill countless others to find the AIDS cure.
Dave Clement, a vice president at Prodeus, Inc., has been working with the Aldrich Institute in using the Portable DNA Analyzer in West Africa; it identifies candidates for a malaria vaccine and ensures that those who are HIV-positive were infected prior to their vaccination for malaria. But Aldrich Executive Director Claire McQuaid may have another agenda; she hopes to include a Trojan horse in the vaccine to combat HIV. The Trojan horse isn’t ready and will kill patients in mere months, but Claire and her colleague Eldridge Perry are only concerned with wiping out AIDS—they believe those who die are expendable. While Dave searches for a way to save his daughter, Liv, who’s contracted HIV, and repair his fractured family, Sheila Stratemeier, the institute’s lead developer for the malaria vaccine, tries to warn anyone she can about the potential deaths of thousands. LiVolsi’s novel, the first in a series of four, is a densely plotted thriller that churns out suspenseful scenes: Civil unrest in Nigeria and Sierra Leone is lucidly detailed with relentless explosions, and even Dave’s racing to Liv’s volleyball game is tense. Characters are refreshingly intricate. Protagonist Dave isn’t a flawless hero; he seems to be an obsessive workaholic. The bad guys are even better; they’re villainized by their actions, but while Eldridge is undoubtedly menacing, Claire is tortured, so mentally distraught by her scarred body that she rejects intimacy. As the start of a series, the book establishes a labyrinthine plot that never quite catches up to itself. There’s much more teased in Book One than questions answered, from the unknown manner in which Liv contracted HIV and the source of her apparent hallucinations to the fates of numerous characters in West Africa.

A terrific launch for the author’s series, but readers may want to have the sequels handy.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0976944652

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Fifth Book Ltd

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2014

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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