Overly intricate character work hobbles a crafty plot.

SHADOW TAG, PERDITION GAMES

Fraser’s (Frozen Statues, 2017, etc.) thriller follows a pair of private investigators as their respective workloads converge on a killer.

In Toronto, private investigators Samantha McNamara and Reece Hash are engaged. Sam is pursuing her doctoral degree and hopes to get an internship at the Serenity Clinic under neuropsychiatrist Dr. Emily Armstrong. Reece is a legal articling student assigned to “audit police due diligence” in several “closed sudden-death cases.” Busying their lives further is a new puppy, Pepin, and the siblings Eli and Danny Watson, who form the technologically savvy portion of the investigative team. At the clinic, Sam is offered the internship, but only if she’s willing to help deprogram 17-year-old Fadiya Basha, survivor of the Bueton Sanctuary cult. Fadiya believes that the cult’s deceased leader, Mussani, visits her at night. She’s also eight weeks pregnant, which shouldn’t be possible. Meanwhile, Reece learns that drone sightings connect his cases. As the two PIs proceed, each must decide whether to navigate treacherous moral terrain for the greater good. Fraser’s latest Perdition Games thriller augments plotlines with domestic travails, including the noisy, destructive Pepin and Sam’s Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, Grace, who insists on planning an elaborate wedding for her daughter. While these elements help the main characters grow within the series, they also slow momentum. Chapters follow Sam, Reece, and someone named Blu, whose tragic upbringing in Louisiana borders on the Dickensian. Fraser toys with readers, creating victims who are so repulsive that we practically cheer their demises. A tangle of subplots—featuring the gruff Dr. Mathias Beauregard and the young science prodigy Azar Basha—helps obscure the connecting element between Sam’s and Reece’s cases. Fraser drains some of the menace from her killer by providing an overly elaborate backstory. However, excellent use of Eli, who has Asperger syndrome, bolsters the final third. Readers will be entertained if they can reconcile the driving events in the present with the melodrama of the flashbacks.

Overly intricate character work hobbles a crafty plot.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9947742-6-2

Page Count: 399

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2019

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

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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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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