A conventional but sometimes entertaining noir whodunit.


In Banta’s (The Fly Strip, 2016) latest novel, a retired, 40-something Los Angeles police detective returns to his hometown of New Orleans only to become embroiled in a case of a dead sex worker.

Sam Lerner is overwhelmed with guilt and bad memories after the death of his wife, Kira, in a car accident. After failing to find solace in drink, he moves from LA to the Big Easy with his golden retriever, Beatrice. His first stop is Maire’s Gentlemen’s Club, which he first visited years ago, as a teenager. There, he rekindles his friendship with proprietor Maire Girod, and he also runs into his old friend police captain Leon Duval (who later seems to dog his every step). At Maire’s, he also becomes acquainted with a call girl in her early 20s, Madsen Cassaise, and their relationship provides him with much-needed peace of mind. Within days, however, Madsen goes missing and is later found drowned. Sam finds himself drawn into the case, even though he has no badge or local authority, and he soon learns of the demise of another young woman. Are the two deaths related? Lerner’s investigation takes him throughout New Orleans and its environs, delving into jazz clubs, voodoo practices, and more. The story draws on the noir tradition, with its antihero detective and a seductive woman—in this case, Maire—in danger. Unfortunately, its plot is fairly conventional, with few narrative shocks. The author tells the story predominately through Sam’s eyes, but he occasionally shifts the perspective to other characters to try to give the tale additional emotional and psychological weight. However, the effect is distracting and only serves to undermine the twists and turns. Despite the lack of surprises, though, the novel is enjoyable. Sam succeeds as an antihero, as his sense of morality drives him to tackle the case. He has his faults, but readers will root for him to find peace with the world. The depiction of New Orleans, though somewhat cursory, does go beyond infamous ?Bourbon Street, presenting a slightly more nuanced vision of the city and region than usual.

A conventional but sometimes entertaining noir whodunit.

Pub Date: June 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-982922-54-2

Page Count: 207

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2018

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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