An engagingly written mystery featuring art, glamour, sex, love, and murder.

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WHEN DEATH IMITATES ART

In Halt’s debut mystery, an art gallery co-owner is sent a painting depicting her slain in a bathtub—and then the scene plays out for real.

In 1980s Cologne, Germany, American Amanda Lee and German Marlene Eichler own the Lee Eichler Gallery. Glamorous Marlene laments her divorce from prominent architect Wolf Eichler, with whom she remains friends. However, she also enjoys high-end shopping, posh salon visits, and sex with wealthy, married art collectors and pickups at questionable clubs. A major show is about to open at the gallery, featuring the death-inspired works of leading artist Klaus Kruger. Art critic Dieter Becker works with Marlene to promote it, and he feels entitled to kickbacks from gallery sales for his efforts. Amanda refuses, infuriating the critic, who hides a dark past. Then Amanda finds Marlene slashed to death in a bathtub, and it turns out that Marlene had received a mysterious package at the gallery—one that contained a painting of her own future murder. Kommissar Fredrich Grutzmacher and his underling Ernst Rudolf investigate both Amanda and Wolf as potential suspects. Readers will find this chilling story hard to put down, as the crimes (yes, plural) are gruesome and the suspects, numerous. The author, who once lived in Germany, captures the edgy atmosphere of that country’s art and club scenes in the ’80s, and she offers richly developed characters along the way; at one point, for instance, the entitled Marlene insists that a married lover appear with her in public at an expensive restaurant—where she then orders a pricey bottle of champagne. Indeed, luxury is everywhere in vivid descriptions of cashmere and silk attire, high-performance sports cars, and fine wine and food. The pacing is also well calibrated as the action moves from scares in the dark to sensual trysts.

An engagingly written mystery featuring art, glamour, sex, love, and murder.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62694-887-7

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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