While the title seems pitched to Tom Jones fans, this mystery will appeal more to fans of lighthearted romantic cozies with...

Who Killed 'Tom Jones'?

The life of a mousy rest home receptionist is upended when she attends a Tom Jones tribute artist festival and murder intervenes.

Ellie Overton is 28 and single since the current crop of soul-patched hipsters can’t hold a candle to the flamboyant macho man of her dreams, singer Tom Jones. When a Tom Jones Festival, featuring dozens of wannabes with varying degrees of talent, swings through her home town of Pankey, Pa. (along with sister city Hankey), Ellie decides to fork over some of her hard-earned pay as general dogsbody at the Finger Rest Home for a weekly pass. To her surprise, her childhood frenemy Happy Carlisle is there—married to Flip Henderson, one of the top contenders. The first night’s entertainment is cut short when the other top contender, Stan McCann, crashes through the stage steps and breaks a leg in the latest of a series of “accidents” plaguing tribute artist contests. Ellie returns the next night with a carload of rest home residents; Happy sets her up with an eliminated contestant, Evan Salter, but the date goes quickly south when Evan is found standing over Flip’s dead body with the murder weapon in his hand. Ellie’s life becomes increasingly complicated when her boss, Mr. Finger, holds her responsible for bringing his clients into a dangerous situation. She feels compelled to help Evan, who claims to be innocent, flee the police, while Happy latches onto Ellie to cater to her not-particularly-devastated widowhood. Happy’s dweebish brother, Donny, turns out to have matured into an eligible attorney with an unfortunate drinking problem, and sexy police detective Marc Levy does his darnedest to sweep Ellie off her feet. The rest home residents, Mrs. Peachey, Mrs. Hand and Mr. Harvey, along with handyman/driver Jorge, supply insight, support, comic relief and wardrobe advice. Martin (Grace Unexpected, 2012, etc.) has written an amusing cozy/romance, though the title is somewhat misleading: The Tom Jones tribute artist theme isn’t especially vital to the story; it could have taken place at any kind of venue with an element of competition. Murder takes a decided back seat to Ellie’s romantic quandaries, dividing her interest and loyalties among Evan, Donny and Marc, though, in fact, Ellie’s relationships with her elderly charges are the real heart of the story.

While the title seems pitched to Tom Jones fans, this mystery will appeal more to fans of lighthearted romantic cozies with fairly conservative social views.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1620151976

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Booktrope Editions

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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...

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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