A wholly absorbing gumshoe tale elevated by an extraordinary detective.

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A PILGRIMAGE TO DEATH

From the Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery series , Vol. 1

A reverend in New Mexico tries her hand at sleuthing when a recent homicide shares similarities with her twin sister’s unsolved murder in this mystery.

Cecilia “Cici” Gurule’s weekly hike with her detective friend Sam Chastain is cut short by a missing hiker report. Sadly, the two find lawyer Donald Johnson, who’s unmistakably dead from stab wounds. But it’s one particular laceration that most unnerves Cici: through the kidney, just like the stabbing death of her twin, Anna Carmen, over a year ago. This is followed by Cici’s vision of her sister, who tells the reverend to help Sam identify her killer. Cici, who quit as associate reverend in Boston to return to her Santa Fe hometown after her sister’s murder, now heads a local church. She gathers information, initially from her parishioners, but doesn’t like where it’s leading her. That’s because linking the two murders naturally connects Anna Carmen to Donald’s alleged exploits, from an affair to drug trafficking. It’s soon apparent, however, that the killer is watching Cici, as she receives threatening messages and eludes a menacing truck in pursuit. But this doesn’t deter the reverend, who, with Sam’s assistance, plans to see her personal investigation to the end. Padgett’s (A Moonlit Serenade, 2018, etc.) series opener, like any good detective story, gives readers a laudable sleuth. Cici is a chic woman of God: She swears and rides a vintage Harley. But her profession makes her an exceptional detective as well. Characters, for example, often seem reluctant to talk to Sam and more easily respond to the reverend. Likewise, Cici’s empathy is genuine; she speaks a line like “I need you to tell us what happened” with unequivocal concern. Despite her occasional colorful language, there are few curses and mostly implied violence. Padgett’s simple prose and short paragraphs help maintain the story’s unwavering pace. Add to that a handful of dubious characters, and the result is a rock-solid mystery with a smashing reveal near the end and even a subtle twist in the final pages.

A wholly absorbing gumshoe tale elevated by an extraordinary detective.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945090-22-6

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Sidecar Press

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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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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