Astute prose and an unwavering pace energized by first-rate characters and subplots.

THE ENIGMA DRAGON

A CATS TALE

From the The Enigma Series series

In this ninth volume of Breakfield and Burkey’s (The Enigma Broker, 2017, etc.) techno-thriller series, a covert team tracks groups who are moving information and funds using nondigital means.

The latest assignment for Julie and Juan Rodríguez’s Cyber Assassin Technology Services involves more footwork than is typical for them. Julie dispatches team members to various locales from Panama to Singapore to track “AIMs”—“analog information mules” working for a global energy company called ePETRO. The AIMs handle business transactions by word of mouth in order to subvert any digital surveillance. Marge Barger and Mike Patrick of ePETRO have good reason for maintaining secrecy, as they’re currently buying oil illegally from Muslim terrorists and selling it to the North Korean government. Julie goes undercover as a woman named Jackeline Cooper and lands a job at ePETRO’s London office, while other CATS members, including Tyler Hebert and Ernesto Gleen in New York, search for AIMs in order to record the contacts that they make. It’s not as mundane as it sounds, as information mules aren’t easy to trail. But then CATS members, including Julie, inexplicably vanish, and Juan and the remaining members must ensure that everyone gets home safely as they attempt to thwart ePETRO’s nefarious plans. By this point in their long-running series, Breakfield and Burkey have mastered the art of telling a story with myriad characters. They’ve amassed a wealth of recurring heroes, which, in this installment, generates a wide variety of storylines; CATS member Brayson Morris in Panama, for example, is apparently disenchanted and may be ready to leave the team. However, it’s the villains that steal the spotlight this time around. There’s obvious dissention among them, resulting in a string of double-crossings and scenes that brim with tension. Marge and Mike, in particular, aren’t telling each other everything; for example, a solo Marge strives to meet the North Koreans’ demand for uranium on her own. This second CATS-centric installment (after 2016’s The Enigma Gamers) will leave readers yearning for more.

Astute prose and an unwavering pace energized by first-rate characters and subplots.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946858-24-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: ICABOD Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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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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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