An intricate, lively detective novel with a wink.

The Case Files of Roderick Misely, Consultant

An aspiring lawyer scrapes together a living as a Renaissance man and amateur sleuth in Rieger’s witty debut.

Roderick Misely has dreams of joining the legal profession, but his father’s tarnished name has prevented any of the lawyers in the 1950s town of Elk Neck from taking him on as an apprentice. So Misely does whatever he can to skirt as close to the legal profession as possible as an all-purpose consultant. Chasing down lost dogs for the reward and taking on menial typing jobs with the municipal government are only a few of the tasks that keep a can of stew on his hot plate or enough change in his pocket for a meal at the local Greek restaurant. His specialty, however, is solving seemingly unsolvable mysteries, from the theft of expensive jewels at the local museum to the blackmail of a town official. Sometimes, Roderick acts at the request of a desperate client, but other times he hangs his hopes on meddling without invitation of a possible payday. Each chapter is a glimpse into one of those cases and the variety of creative but legally fuzzy methods that Roderick employs to crack them. These bite-sized whodunits toe the line between the zany and dangerous without reading over-the-top—a savvy mixture from which even more seasoned writers could learn a thing or two. All the while, Rieger’s writing is effortlessly funny, with deadpan humor coloring even the most mundane moments: “The two shook hands. Misely could have sworn he was handling a live, wet eel. Instinctively, he looked around for a towel, but of course, there was no towel.” Roderick himself is fairly humorless but is nonetheless a refreshing take on the 1950s gumshoe. He’s a smooth talker and skillful investigator, with none of the cool glamor or idealized independence of some other fictional private eyes. Eschewing friends, he’s certainly out for himself, but his freedom comes with a healthy dose of reality. Life hasn’t turned out the way he expected; he struggles to make ends meet and sleeps on a cot in his cluttered “eyesore” of a suite. Clever and comical, this page-turner will have readers furrowing their brows one minute and laughing out loud the next.

An intricate, lively detective novel with a wink.

Pub Date: April 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1593308186

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Aventine Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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