BLUE LIGHTNING

Eighteen stories in the mystery genre, edited by British poet, cultural historian, and mystery writer Harvey (Easy Meat, 1996, etc.), explore the meaning of music in offbeat lives. Gritty nightclub dressing rooms, late-night disc jockeys talking to themselves, pop lyrics ironically contrasted with grim realities, romantic sax men dreaming through their horns—it’s all here, from writers as established as Walter Mosley (whose “Blue Lightning” offers a brief glimpse of the dignified ex-con musical tootler Socrates Fortlow finding redemption) and as unheralded as singer/novelist Rosanne Cash, who imagines a sentimental summit between her father, Johnny Cash, and an ineptly disguised Beatle in “John Lennon in the American South.” Most contributors, like Harvey himself—whose “Cool Blues” sets his hero Inspector Charlie Resnick on the trail of a serial robber who takes the names of Duke Ellington’s band members as his aliases—lack superstar dazzle but are reasonably well known. Jeffery Deaver’s “Nocturne” is a snappy Manhattan police procedural about a stolen Stradivarius and an unconventional, musically-inspired cop’s bighearted sense of justice; Gary Phillips” more standard whodunit shows what fools rap musicians can be as Ivan Monk, his series detective, unmasks a “Stone Cold Killah.” Most stories dwell on the peaks and pits of musical types who—ll never hog the spotlight: Ira Rankin, in his pretentious second-person confessional “Glimmer,” tells of a dissolute playwright who happened to be in the right place at the right time when the Rolling Stones needed somebody to sing “ooh, ooh.” Music also sounds rites of passage, bringing on a mental breakdown in Kirsty Gunn’s “Aja” and a heart attack for an aging blues singer in Charlotte Carter’s “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing.” Sour notes: in an appendix the writers plug their works, prattle on about how much they love music, and list the tunes they played while they were writing the stories.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-871033-43-8

Page Count: 422

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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