A tangled but engrossing mystery populated by dynamic characters.

WHERE FOOLS DARE TO TREAD

A MONK BUTTMAN MYSTERY

In this debut thriller, a California courier becomes immersed in a conspiracy of greed, missing persons, and powerful individuals who view murder as an occasional necessity.

Monk Buttman is simply delivering a couple of messages one day for the law firm Aeschylus and Associates. But on returning to the law office, he witnesses a murder and the killer leaving with a bag containing $25,000. Marsyas Durant, who works at the firm, asks Monk for discretion so the courier only tells the authorities he found the body. Durant then enlists Monk to track down the culprit, as the money taken was intended for A and A’s client Johnny Dulcimer. Monk teams up with Dulcimer’s associate Mr. Jones and also looks into the unexplained disappearance of Martin Delashay, another A and A client. It’s abundantly clear dangerous people are somehow involved, as two goons attack Monk. But what exactly they’re after is a mystery the protagonist struggles to unravel, though it may be greed; one theory suggests possible money laundering at Delashay’s software company, Sphere. Monk soon fears that the next time someone assaults him, the encounter will be more lethal than a beating. Meanwhile, he further complicates his life by juggling potential relationships with his neighbor Joanie; Dulcimer’s receptionist, Agnes; and Delashay’s wife, Judith. In this mystery series opener, Pearce’s plot is unquestionably convoluted, including the reason Durant asks Monk to investigate. But Monk’s first-person perspective is an easy-to-follow narrative, adequately keeping in check the novel’s copious characters. He’s likewise an intriguing protagonist with a curious backstory, most notably the fact that his father, Moses, runs a commune. There’s even an extended sequence with Monk and Agnes that deftly delves into both of their thorny pasts. But the book does run a bit too long, as it puts the mystery on the back burner just prior to the final act. Still, the author sublimely illustrates quieter moments throughout the story: “The sun, omnipotent and persistent, drove me from my fitful slumber and my comfy bed. I saw no reason to get up.”

A tangled but engrossing mystery populated by dynamic characters.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-203-8

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2019

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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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