A buoyant, commendable mystery that piles on red herrings with ferocity and glee.

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In this debut thriller, a woman decides to look into the murders of fellow real estate brokers when it seems that someone’s setting her up as a patsy.

Dana Black is one of some 2,000 Realtors in Rock Canyon. It’s a profession that doesn’t get much respect from the townspeople, particularly considering an agent’s underhanded stunt to garner public sympathy and the unexplained disappearance of a “problem client.” So when a couple of agents turn up murdered, cops aren’t very interested. Dana, however, is worried about her lack of alibis. Suffering from intermittent blackouts, she can’t account for her whereabouts during the first murder. BDSM play partner, Dare, is her alibi for the second homicide, but he has reason to keep mum about their encounters. Dana finds an ally in private eye Aidan Cummings, who asks her to join him in questioning locals because they’ll likely be more responsive to a familiar face. It isn’t long before Cummings is more appealing than Dare, despite the detective’s conventional sex life making him boring vanilla. As the murderer continues targeting Realtors, it’s clear a frame-up is in the works (for example, a car that looks suspiciously like Dana’s). With a sordid past and her estrangement from hateful, sickly mom, Cassandra Beckett, and older, top-selling broker sister, Melanie, Dana has incentive to track down a killer. Though the murder mystery’s initially muted, focusing on Dana’s sexual escapades with Dare, Barr’s story gradually becomes a dense, twist-laden excursion. Dana’s history, for one, is rife with trauma—Dad died on her 6th birthday—and curious motives later come to light, including Cassandra wanting no association with her younger daughter. Dana’s not quite as kinky as she asserts, specifically indexing her various limits. Nevertheless, the woman torn between sexually enticing Dare and charming Cummings faces a dishy dilemma. And despite her worries, Dana’s nonexistent alibis aren’t much of an issue; she’s actively involved in the investigation, spearheaded by Cummings (per orders from the short-on-manpower captain), who believes in her innocence. But she’s unequivocally in danger by the end, and the spiraling final act, culminating with the killer’s staggering reveal, is an exhilarating ride.

A buoyant, commendable mystery that piles on red herrings with ferocity and glee.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9977118-1-3

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Punctuated Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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