Catnip for conspiracy theorists and fans of fast-paced thrillers.

Deadly Risks

Murder by jungle lion gets this CIA–laced story off to a rousing start. 

In Paper’s (Perfect, 2010, etc.) debut novel, attorney Jeff Roberts reads a disturbing letter written by his father before his death. Soon Jeff believes that his phone is tapped and that he is being watched. Frightened, he decides to take a long vacation in Africa with girlfriend Nicole Landow, but their photographic safari ends when Jeff has a deadly encounter with a lion. After his death, which may have involved criminal activity, Jeff’s sister Kelly receives their dad’s unsettling letter. In his dispatch, Ted Roberts admits that when he was a White House CIA case officer in the 1960s, he played a part in John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The letter includes coded information to be directed to the JFK Assassination Records Review Board. Kelly, dumbfounded by her father’s confession, shares the letter with Senate staffer and Navy SEAL Jim Roth, Jeff’s best friend. Horrifying as its contents are, the letter itself is bad juju. Almost anyone reading it—Jim and Kelly included—soon encounters dangerous situations, and some who are shown the missive even end up dead. In fact, CIA Director Kay Brownstein suggests Kelly leave well enough alone to avoid taking “deadly risks” (but of course, she doesn’t listen). As conspiracy theories go, Paper, a Washington, D.C., attorney, offers an intriguing one that links top-level U.S. officials to the assassination. Dialogue and pacing are superb, and the chapter in which the safari tour company is sued in court is authoritatively well-written. But the use of italic type for large sections of text is daunting; italics are used for revealing past events, characters’ memories, and the contents of letters. Regarding the last, Kelly takes to writing to her dead father, which seems an inelegant way of providing exposition. It’s also almost comical that nearly every time someone sits on a chair or couch, it is made of leather. In addition, characters far too frequently nurse, swig, sip, or take long swallows of beer or wine.

Catnip for conspiracy theorists and fans of fast-paced thrillers.

Pub Date: July 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-62147-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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