Tight action sequences and a high-energy plot that readers should relish.

THE BLIND POOL

A military veteran’s unpleasant encounter with a biker gang prompts an investigation into criminals using a Texas prison for their own gain in this thriller.

Dan Cowell and his common-law wife, Linda Parker, are enjoying a relaxing life in Key West, Florida. At least until Dan tries stopping bikers from tormenting an elderly couple on the highway, ending with both him and Linda beaten and humiliated. Dan’s friend and fellow Navy vet, Carl Blackadar, who does “discreet” government work, suggests tracking down the gang. This would benefit Carl as well. Dan can ID the main assailant, Tank, whose gang Carl has linked to international theft and murder. Dan agrees; later, his eyewitness status is the likely motive for an assassination attempt against the common-law couple. The two men begin in Ecuador while Linda and her ex-journalist pal (and Carl’s girlfriend), Melanie Olson, investigate the matter separately. Mel believes she’s found Tank in a Texas jail, where the women travel under the pretense of writing a magazine article. Something is clearly wrong with the prison: How can Tank be in other countries if he’s locked up, and why doesn’t Linda recognize him? Things escalate when Dan and Carl get word that the two women have disappeared. McHugh’s (Deadlines, 2010, etc.) novel is brimming with action. Scuffles are quick and startling, while realistically varying in outcomes: some of the fights the good guys win; some they lose; and some involve frying pans. Characters have just as much impact, especially the women; Linda, a Moskita from Honduras, proves a formidable opponent against any attacker. The story initially bounces the perspective between the paired-off characters, but as they gradually split apart (for different reasons), the scenes shorten and the pace increases. Nevertheless, the author adeptly depicts the environment; at the prison, the women trek through “corridors that cradle” a dank musk “of male sweat as well as hints of fecal vapor, stale urine and vomit, all laced by a turpentine reek of Pine-Sol.”

Tight action sequences and a high-energy plot that readers should relish.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9987320-7-7

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Elkheart Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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