An engrossing historical murder mystery.

MASK OF THE VERDOY

A GEORGE HARLEY MYSTERY

In this first installment of a new mystery series set in Depression-era London, a private detective with a shadowy past goes up against fascists as he tries to solve a boy’s murder.

George Harley is a Cockney PI who hobnobs with a colorful assortment of criminals and who occasionally uses illegal methods to solve his cases. One night, he rescues a teenage rent boy from being roughed up by attackers in a Piccadilly Circus alleyway. Unfortunately, the boy’s safety is short-lived, as someone murders him in Harley’s home while the private eye is out; the only witness is a neighbor who claims to have been drugged by a mysterious, masked intruder. Harley investigates the boy’s murder with the assistance of an old military friend from the Great War, Gen. Sir Frederic Wilberforce Swales, who happens to be the new metropolitan police commissioner; and DC Pearson, a naïve but upstanding new cop from the West Country. However, deep corruption in the police force and an apparent connection with the British Brotherhood of Fascists make the mystery murkier than it initially seems. As Harley tries to solve the case, he faces Italian gymnasts-turned–Mafia informants, Jewish boxers moonlighting as mobsters’ muscle, British secret agents, and the “Bright Young Things” of the English upper class. Thanks to debut author LeComber’s expert use of cockney slang and other lingo of the period, readers will practically see the city’s pea-soup smog and smell Harley’s ubiquitous Gold Flake cigarettes wafting off the page. The story is pitch-dark, and some decent, likable characters meet graphically gruesome ends, but readers who have a stomach for such scenes will eat this mystery up. They’ll also become attached to Harley’s gruff, growling manner and clever turns of phrase—even if some of them are hard to understand without the book’s glossary close at hand—and pleased to learn that LeComber has future adventures planned for him in London’s colorful criminal underground.

An engrossing historical murder mystery.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0993047206

Page Count: 460

Publisher: Diablo Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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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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