Fans of epic sagas should be happy to lose themselves in this lavish book—and there’s another volume to come.


From the Crimson Heirlooms series , Vol. 2

In this sequel, treasure hunters chase a MacGuffin for the ages: the Crimson Heirlooms.

This story about the heirlooms—the fabulous Cross of Nantes and “the words of the devil’s song” at the carnage in the Vendée Militaire—toggles mostly between France and Hispaniola in the Caribbean from the late 1780s to the 1830s. The Guerrier twins, Estelle and Guillaume, aka Beau-Brave, are originally from Saint-Domingue on Hispaniola but now live in France. Beau-Brave is a charismatic figure determined to be a political playwright, advancing the Rousseau-ian ideals of the Enlightenment. Estelle has wound up in Nantes as a paid companion. She is almost too good for this world. She will fall in love with Xavier Traversier, the heir to his rich family’s mercantile operation in Nantes; be spurned; and—well, it is just too tragic. She wears the Cross of Nantes around her lovely neck, the mystical object that will disappear. The searcher who finds the heirlooms will legally inherit the Traversier family’s valuable holdings. Meanwhile, Jacob “Jake” Loring, an American student in France, battle-tested at the barricades, has been dragooned by his nemesis, Monsieur Tyran, into looking for the heirlooms in exchange for his life. Eventually, Estelle makes a fateful decision concerning the cross and her brother. Beau-Brave will surely play an important role in the French Revolution. Meanwhile—about 40 years hence—Jake runs into trouble in a supposedly safe haven. Dennis (The Crimson Heirlooms, 2018) is a talented storyteller and a sedulous student of history. The novel ranges from dramatic action to historical and philosophical exposition to a study of the often politically subversive theater of the time, with excursions into the lives of nightsoilers and the deadly combination of mobs and rumors. The author writes well: graceful, witty, imagistic. Here he discusses an associate of Xavier’s named Rag: “Today, he sat slumped in his chair, his eyes downcast, his mien pensive. Rag’s historical extroversion was so pronounced, his present demeanor was akin to his skull being inside out.” This engrossing installment comes with stark, grainy black-and-white photographs, mostly interior or exterior shots by Dennis of locales mentioned in the text. In addition, there’s a helpful list of main characters and a pronunciation appendix that offers much witty, snarky commentary.

Fans of epic sagas should be happy to lose themselves in this lavish book—and there’s another volume to come.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9994936-5-6

Page Count: 584

Publisher: A-R-B Books

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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