An often engrossing glimpse into an arduous criminal investigation, despite some missteps.

PATH OF THE DEVIL

CAMINO DEL DIABLO

In this novel based on true events, a Drug Enforcement Agency operative and two California private investigators face numerous hurdles as they investigate a cartel that’s smuggling narcotics into the United States.

When his wife lands a job in Yuma, Arizona, in 1990, DEA Agent Larry Ray Hardin requests a transfer there from San Diego. He soon zeroes in on the case of the Meraz brothers in Mexico; authorities have tied them to heroin, cocaine, and marijuana trafficking, money laundering, and arms smuggling. They’re also allegedly behind the shooting of two DEA agents in 1975 and another agent’s torture and murder 10 years after that, so Larry makes it his personal mission to stop their organization. Although he suspects corruption and leaks among his colleagues, he ultimately finds common ground with two Los Angeles PIs. Jeff Pearce and Randy Torgerson are trying to link the Merazes’ drugs to trucks transporting shrimp, as well as a California seafood company. Unfortunately, many officials, agents, and prosecutors are either crooked or too scared to help, which makes their goal a seemingly impossible task. DeMille (co-author: It Started With a Pencil, 2016) and debut co-authors Hardin, Pearce, and Torgerson’s story is based in fact, but it changes several names and invents many events and conversations. However, it deftly presents the frustrations that law enforcement officials and PIs endure. None of the assistant U.S. attorneys that Larry knows, for example, seem intent on prosecuting the dangerous Merazes. The novel splits the narrative into first-person accounts from Larry’s, Jeff’s, and Randy’s points of view, as well as intermittent third-person narration. This structure allows for brief but intriguing looks into each man’s backstory, as well as startling incidents, such as a sexual-assault allegation. The straightforward prose style keeps the particulars of the ongoing investigations clear. Still, it’s confusing when first-person narration occasionally slips into third, and vice versa, without explanation. There are also muddled dates; Larry and the PIs meet to compare cases in 1991, which contradicts earlier details, such as Randy joining the Los Angeles business in 1992 and the PIs’ investigation starting in 1993.

An often engrossing glimpse into an arduous criminal investigation, despite some missteps.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73363-500-4

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Dianne's Consultant Services

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2019

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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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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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