An entertaining character study and effective thriller.

ARTICLE 15

From the Griffith Crowe series , Vol. 2

A law firm’s fixer finds himself on trial for murder after his latest job takes a deadly turn.

“ ‘We have this client with a…special request.’ Griff shook his head. ‘It always starts this way, doesn’t it?’ ” That’s how this series opener begins, and it’s a mostly auspicious one. Griffith Crowe is “a badass,” a “tall, dark and dangerous” former Navy SEAL and pilot whose past exploits are intriguingly hinted at when his college friend/fellow veteran/high-octane law firm rainmaker calls on him for another “sensitive matter.” “Am I going to regret this––again?” Crowe asks of the request to retrieve a $1 million Jackson Pollock painting purloined by Helena, a client’s ravishing ex-wife. Turns out that’s just a MacGuffin; the real assignment is to retrieve for Helena personal items that belonged to her recently deceased father, including his private journals. That part isn’t too taxing; the tricky bit is that once Crowe gets them, he and Helena become targets. Why? Perhaps her father’s helicopter mishap was not an accident. Suspects include Helena’s estranged half brother, who owns 50% of the shares in their father’s company. The company’s managing director owns a “tie-breaker” number of shares, but he is bumped off. And when a rising young associate at a law firm also winds up dead, Crowe is arrested. All that readers need to know about Bass’ (Murder by Munchausen, 2019, etc.) intended tone for the book can be glimpsed in the author’s photograph, which depicts the novelist pointing a gun at his typewriter. More often than not, his sentences achieve just the right temperature for hard boil, as in this scene setter: “A place where grand strategies” and harebrained “schemes were incubated, hatched and sometimes celebrated, sometimes autopsied.” Or this response when one character is asked about the rationale for shooting someone five times: “Because when I squeezed the trigger a sixth time, it just went click.” Crowe makes for a compelling enough leading man, but the novel’s breakout character is “crusty old country lawyer” E.L. Johnson. His enjoyable courtroom antics strike just the right Matlock note. The Pollock misdirection muddles things early on, and the banter between femme fatale Helena and Crowe is lame, but once those are dispensed with, the story twists and turns with ease. The sequel could use a little more polish and a lot more Johnson.

An entertaining character study and effective thriller.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946266-11-8

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Electron Alley Corporation

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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