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From Shreds To Riches

A multilayered and consistently engaging rags-to-riches story.

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In Fisher and Orey’s historical novel, a successful entrepreneur sees his professional and personal life torn apart.

As the story opens in 1974, readers meet Scott Newman, a high roller with a posh Fifth Avenue office and an enormous bank account. As he looks out on his world, he considers it to be heaven on Earth, and a far cry from his former, blue-collar life. He remembers how his father, a low-paid route salesman for a local bread company worked himself into an early grave; Scott decides early on that he doesn’t want a life like that for himself. Instead, he eventually builds a light bulb telemarketing company, Argon Industries, into a powerhouse that makes him very wealthy. Then, one day, FBI agents burst into his trading rooms, accusing him and his partner, Doug Kaufman, of criminal activity. As the raid and its aftermath unfold, the narrative follows Scott’s memories of founding the company with Doug and meeting a wide array of challenges, from building their business expertise to dealing with thuggish extortionists. This flashback narrative spans decades, and when it loops back to the present, readers find Scott fuming with rage over his heavy-handed treatment at the hands of the FBI—and this stress lands him in the hospital. His challenge is to find a way to survive his setbacks and return to success, but the obstacles seem insurmountable as the government closes in.

Fisher and Orey’s novel opens with a rather familiar setup, but the book’s extensive flashbacks, detailing Scott and Doug’s past, will grab readers’ interest. The stories of their rise to corporate dominance are told with considerable slang and energy and get across the forward momentum of two guys trying to scratch and hustle their way to financial success: “Today it’s only a crazy dream,” Scott says about possibly opening a jewelry store, “but tomorrow I’ll begin working to make this reality.” The supporting characters in Scott’s life are as well fleshed out as the rest of his backstory; the present-day storyline, though, features by-the-numbers portrayals of federal agents, which the authors see fit to portray as almost uniformly snide, sneering, and whip-cracking—the type of antagonists who can be relied upon to say,Godfather-style, “this isn’t personal.” Fisher and Orey compensate by developing the chemistry between Scott and Doug, which is compelling at every stage of their association. The authors smartly anchor the book’s final act in the present rather than the past, bringing the action to a climax with some dramatic courtroom scenes in which Scott must fight for his life against charges of fraud and money laundering—even after it seems as if he’s been betrayed by his nearest and dearest. The work would have benefited from a stronger copy edit, and some elements of the story itself might raise eyebrows among less ardent capitalists—Scott may be charismatic, but no reader would want to do business with him. Ultimately, though, the novel’s sheer narrative energy carries the day.

A multilayered and consistently engaging rags-to-riches story.

Pub Date: June 24, 2021

ISBN: 979-8524589842

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

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A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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