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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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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