A stylish and distinctive tale full of British con men and supernatural creatures.



A debut urban fantasy novel tells the story of an ethically challenged magician holed up in a resort town in Cornwall.

Fleeing his gambling debts (and the large men attempting to collect them), London magician and ne’er-do-well Alexander Crowley—great-grandson of a famed occultist—flees to the beach town of St Ives to lay low for a while. The profane and casually criminal Alex plans to relax for the summer, using his mesmerizing ability to steal money and services from cabbies and little old ladies. But upon arriving in town, he is immediately contacted by the local (rivalrous) divinities—an ancient Celtic saint named IA and a bar-owning demon called Mr. Bucca Dhu—who make it clear that a low-key vacation is not on the table. “You will not be left alone or at peace in this town without my assistance, Mr Crowley,” IA warns him. “Your presence will be like a magnet for ne’er do wells, both human and other.” As if that isn’t enough, his presence also attracts an unlikely sidekick in the form of the hapless town novelist, Booby de Faux. IA turns out to be right: Alex’s magical gifts—as well as his flexible moral compass—make him a desirable contractor in St Ives, and he is soon facing off with local Mafiosos, medieval ghosts, talking seagulls, ancient kings, and vampires who disguise themselves as cats. Compared to this lot, maybe facing a few debt collectors wasn’t all that bad. Barr’s prose is jocular and laden with slang, more Guy Ritchie than J.K. Rowling: “My old man used to do nights and it made him a right grumpy git. I had considered asking Booby to knock up some curtains for this gaff as I never could sleep during the daytime. Should have been a bloody vampire, now there was a thought!” Formatted as a series of episodes rather than one long narrative, the book has a lovely, leisurely pace that fits perfectly with its romantic setting. Alex himself is a rather unlikable protagonist—he objectifies most women he meets (“Alert and pert, a poor man’s Brigitte Bardot stood behind the counter…The assistant looked better stacked than the shelves”) and is neither as funny nor as suave as the author clearly means for him to be. Yet the story remains largely readable nonetheless.

A stylish and distinctive tale full of British con men and supernatural creatures.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9996556-3-4

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Between the Lines Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 15, 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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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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