An inventive tale by a first-time author who’s off to a fast start.

DEATH AND SEVEN

A blend of sci-fi and courtroom drama that takes readers into a brave new world of criminal investigation.

In New York state, the Osiris team, headed by prosecutor Freddy Logan, has racked up an impressive track record of convictions due to their access to a secret source of information. Logan prosecutes financial malfeasance as treason, and death sentences await those who are convicted. However, the Osiris team seeks a sentence of “death and seven,” which means that the bodies don’t have to be released for seven years, giving federal investigators plenty of time to “sift and grind through” seized materials “with unremitting precision.” The corpses are sent off to a hidden lab called Glimmer Development, where researchers Kenneth Conklin and Gregory Ellerby, in exchange for funding, use technology they’ve developed to extract damning evidence from their brains, which they forward to Osiris for future prosecutions. This unethical arrangement might have continued successfully for years, but then Amanda Wilson, an assistant at Glimmer, feels guilty about how one of the “patients” is treated and sends a letter to the dead woman’s lawyer. Then Kenny, jealous about Gregory and Amanda’s relationship, decides to become a whistle-blower; the problem is that he mistakenly approaches technology thieves instead of reporters. Debut author Welch does a thorough job of examining what can happen when science outpaces regulation, posing the age-old science-fiction question: Just because something can be done, should it? However, readers may find it hard to feel much sympathy for the victims in Welch’s scenario, who are consistently portrayed as the greedy few seeking to profit off of the honest many. The author conjures a realistic cast of characters, including scientists and lawyers who are more concerned with results than consequences as well as a handful of relative innocents caught in the middle. Cynicism, rather than morality, triumphs in the end; in a world of advancing technology, the dead can’t even take their secrets to the grave.

An inventive tale by a first-time author who’s off to a fast start.

Pub Date: July 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9990205-8-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Immortal Works LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2018

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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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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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