This tale offers a strong character study rather than a surprising murder mystery.

HOUSE OF EIRE

From the Hillary Broome Novels series , Vol. 3

“Ghostwriter” takes on a dangerous new meaning when a woman honeymoons in Ireland and uncovers family closets full of skeletons.

The third in Gillam’s (House of Dads, 2014, etc.) Hillary Broome series finds the disgraced journalist-turned-ghostwriter in Ireland with her husband on a belated honeymoon after 10 years of marriage. Accompanying the couple are her precocious preteen daughter, Claire, and her elderly friend Sarah (whose life Hillary saved in the first book). Hillary is haunted by her mother’s desertion of the family when she was a young girl. While Hillary’s husband attends a gang conference, she intends to bone up on her roots and fill in gaps in her family history. She is also invited to be matron of honor for her friend Bridget Murphy. Bridget is embroiled in a public campaign to stop Dermot Connolly, “a West Coast Donald Trump” who’s rumored to have “his own version of an Irish Mafia,” from building a Disneyland-type amusement park unless it includes a memorial to the millions who were victims of the Great Irish Famine. “Pot O’Gold’s not for history lessons,” the developer threatens (and to be fair, he has a point). But Bridget will not be deterred, even as she begins receiving cautionary ghost dolls as a warning. Her fiance, Seamus, isn’t sure “she understood the forces she was up against.” But he does, as Connolly charges him with stopping Bridget’s public campaign against the park. When Bridget is inevitably murdered, Hillary becomes torn between continuing the historical research that got her friend killed and protecting her daughter and Sarah. “I know you’re going to do what you want, no matter what I say,” her husband capitulates. This is one of the intriguing heroine’s most formidable features. The book takes a bit of time to get going (and it’s pretty clear who the culprit is) but the momentum and the suspense build steadily. And the author has created a striking protagonist. Hillary remains devastated by Bridget’s death (“Guilt weighed on Hillary’s shoulders like a lead cape. She should have gotten to Bridget sooner. While she had a chance to help”). Gillam does violate the rule of Chekhov’s gun: Hillary states that she knows karate and can take care of herself, but readers never get to see her in action. Maybe next time.

This tale offers a strong character study rather than a surprising murder mystery.

Pub Date: June 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9858838-6-7

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Gorilla Girl Ink

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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