A page-turner rife with historical details and timeless intrigue.


A woman’s outlandish fears may turn out to be quite real in this historical thriller.

World War I is over but its scars remain. On the shores of Lake Como, Italy, Englishmen and women cross paths at a sanitarium. Penelope Jones is certain that someone is trying to kill her while her husband and family are more inclined to think this paranoia is the product of a troubled mind, exacerbated by the untimely death of her brother. Dr. Joseph Barnett in part agrees, but at the same time he finds himself challenged by the patient, as she swings from insisting on violent attackers around every corner to making erudite observations on Shakespeare, drawn from a deep well of professorial knowledge. Further complicating things, Barnett is intimately familiar with Penelope’s husband, Alexander Cavendish. While Cavendish is renowned as a war hero, Barnett served with him in the trenches and hates the man, as does the doctor’s wife, Rose, who treated both soldiers for their war wounds. But even as the story reveals more about all these characters’ pasts, so too does the plot thicken in the present, as physical evidence that Penelope is under assault begins to emerge and the thorny emotional and financial reasons behind even her marriage surface. While Penelope at times speaks of past lives and conspiracies, the other characters must face up to the mounting uncertainty over just how much of her delusion is madness—and how much is truth. Miller (When Darkness Comes, 2017, etc.) promises a story full of twists and turns and complex relationships and resentments—set against a powerful backdrop—and he absolutely delivers. The prose is solid, if a little rocky around the various characters’ introductions, where exposition can drown out the rest of the scene: “Her ancestors had been at the forefront of British affairs for several centuries, revered by most of the Empire’s subjects, but the current generation was cursed by tragedy.” But after these early growing pains, the plotting moves briskly, switching perspectives as the characters’ relationships deepen and become more intricate, all the while peppering readers with new clues as to just who won’t make it out of Italy alive.

A page-turner rife with historical details and timeless intrigue.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-79052-524-9

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 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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