Identity Crisis


An unremarkable second installment in Hackensmith’s (We The People, 2011, etc.) mystery-suspense series featuring detective Brian Koski.
Although Koski saved his friends and their family in Checkmate (2011), this second novel has him kicked off the Cheyenne, Wyoming, police force by his vindictive superior shortly after it begins. With few options, he sets up a private investigation business, and hopes for the best with his newly acquired police dog, Sinbad. Melody Patten, referred to Koski by a friend, hires him to mediate a conflict between her young daughter, Angela, and her former teacher, Collin Lanaski, who’s stalking her. Lanaski is convinced that Angela is his missing-and-presumed-dead daughter Courtney, and threatens to take her away from the Pattens, accusing them of child abuse. Koski, glad to have the business, tries to intervene as best he can before the situation gets out of hand. With Sinbad in tow, he looks to a psychic for help with the case, all the while navigating life as a self-employed detective. Hackensmith is skilled at moving the plot along, and the story is often entertaining. However, readers may find the characters rather thin. Koski, despite his years of experience on the force, doesn’t seem to be a particularly competent detective, and he makes grave errors and oversights; he notably doesn’t anticipate how far Lanaski will go. Koski’s playboy persona, meanwhile, is neither novel nor appealing; his descriptions of a woman in terms of her “ample bosom” and “pert…behind” hint that Koski may be paying attention to the wrong details. Furthermore, the crimes, once fully revealed, prove to be especially far-fetched. Readers won’t be comforted that child abuse, murder and kidnapping could be solved by an eager private investigator; instead, they may be disturbed that these transgressions could go unsolved for so long.

A sincere but undistinguished thriller.

Pub Date: April 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1629010755

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: July 9, 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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