A sometimes-bumpy but always compelling tale about a budding murderer.


A teacher witnesses the birth of a serial killer in the form of one of her students in this debut psychological thriller. 

Libby Teach barely escaped a serial killer when she was 9 years old: her own Uncle Roger, who molested her and warned her to never tell. Now she works as a sixth grade teacher. One of her students is Russell Thomas, the son of a serial killer. Roger Allen Watson—the Trailer Park Murderer, who met his end via lethal injection—raped Russell’s mother when she was just 14. She now works as a stripper and prostitute, and her boyfriend, Wayne Jetsoe, molests 12-year-old Russell whenever he gets the chance. Russell likes Miss Teach: “She was pretty and seemed to care about all of her students even Russell. Maybe especially Russell. She often stood by his desk when she was lecturing about history and smiled at him like they shared a secret or something.” For her part, Libby is starting to worry about Russell and the violent things he writes in his journal. Is it possible that he may have inherited a few things from his father—the same man who molested Libby when she was a girl? Funk’s plot is an intricate dance between the various characters: not just Libby and Russell, but also others, including psychotic Wayne and handsome policeman Mike O’Malley, the protagonist’s love interest. The author’s prose is broad and simple: “Bud was the local go to guy for most drugs. Users like Leo were always looking for a new way to get high and forget about their miserable existence. Ironically, Bud was a conscientious drug dealer. He didn’t want his regulars getting messed up and dying.” Funk attempts to not only show how a serial killer behaves, but to identify the childhood roots of that behavior as well. In that sense, the book succeeds: Readers will feel badly for Russell even as they are horrified by what he is becoming. While the presentation is not quite as smooth as it could be, the novel is generally thrilling and thoroughly unafraid to take readers to some very dark places.

A sometimes-bumpy but always compelling tale about a budding murderer.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72875-892-3

Page Count: 267

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2019

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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