An engaging thriller that successfully explores the implications of a wicked curse.

THE MARK OF THE SPIDER

From the Black Orchid Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A nature photographer stumbles upon an ultra-rare black orchid—and a deadly curse—in the first installment of Haase’s (Hotel Constellation, 2018) supernatural-thriller series. 

The third wealthiest man in the United Arab Emirates gave American Sebastian Arnett instructions to photograph “the most beautiful, the most delightful, the most interesting” orchids on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. There, Sebastian meets Australian Johnnie Walker in a bar and reluctantly accepts the stranger’s invitation to accompany him and his friends on weekend vacations inland. Sebastian, a heavy drinker who’s still mourning the death of his wife four years ago, thinks that the outings might provide him with opportunities to find more orchids. On the group’s fifth trip, they stop in a village where a mysterious, white-haired Dyak woman presents Sebastian with an extremely rare black orchid. The silent woman leads the group to an area to find more, where Sebastian receives a dart to his cheek. When he wakes up in a bamboo hut a week later, he’s shocked to find the severed heads of his travel companions, a tattoo of a spiderweb on his face, and, most disturbingly, the ability to kill people with his mind. Haase builds a compelling narrative, interweaved with poems and supernatural elements. At one point, an ethnologist tells Sebastian that “the spider web tattoo...houses a powerful spider spirit that requires occasional sacrifices to keep it content.” Various government operatives seek Sebastian out, which provides opportunities for effective meditations on military systems, as when a U.S. Marine tells Sebastian, “We talk about defending our country, but the reality is the way we do that is to kill the other guy before he kills us.” The story also features an intriguing cast, including Amanda Cox Campion, Sebastian’s love interest; and Chief Kahvah Att-un-poon-a-woon-ah, a Native American medicine man who tries to help the photographer battle the spirit. However, Sebastian’s actions will alienate readers at times; for example, he twice refers to the Native American chief as “William Walks-With-Something-or-Other,” and, at one point, he sleeps with the widow of a man that his demonic spirit killed. 

An engaging thriller that successfully explores the implications of a wicked curse.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9994847-3-9

Page Count: 334

Publisher: C. Lawrence Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 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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