Light on mystery, but an enjoyable cast enlivens this meddling-kids story.


In this debut YA novel, a tween detective investigates the case of an illegal quarry and a corrupt sheriff in her new hometown.

At age 12, chocolate-skinned Natalie Jasmine Hill wants “to help change this world.” A year ago, when she lived in New Jersey, she solved the case of a drug theft from the hospital where her mother, Lauren, worked. A local paper called her a “kid detective,” and the reputation has followed her to Pembrooke, Maryland. She and her mother recently moved there to be closer to family after Natalie’s father, a pilot, was ruled missing along with his crew when their plane disappeared during a United Nations mission in northern Iraq. Pembrooke is a pretty town, and Natalie already has a good friend, Vivian Chin, and a comrade in Aaron Jenkins, her high school-age cousin. Pembrooke’s only flaw, says Lauren, is Sheriff Richard Anderson—and very soon, it becomes evident that something fishy is going on with the town quarry. Supposedly, it was closed for safety violations, but there have been suspicious accidents and injuries linked to quarry trucks. Natalie decides she needs photographs to prove that the quarry is still operating, and investigates with the help of her friends, incurring the sheriff’s wrath; luckily, she’s got allies like the local newspaper publisher on her side. Changing the world is a tall order, but maybe the group can change Pembrooke for the better. In her novel, former journalist Fields offers a pleasing juvenile detective story that’s especially notable for featuring a diverse cast (including Jenny Merryweather, the African-American publisher), rare in this genre. The heroine’s determination and drive are admirable; overall, the dialogue and relationships between the characters are naturalistic. But besides a subplot regarding Natalie’s overanxious science teacher, the story is a bit thin. Get photos, publish them, and try to nail down the sheriff’s involvement—that’s all there is to it, drawn out through repetitive conversations and plans to accomplish these things and various progress reports. Distracting tense shifts could also use some tweaking (“No one noticed he’d joined their huddle. Bobby is often overlooked. He is a year younger than Mark”).

Light on mystery, but an enjoyable cast enlivens this meddling-kids story.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-578-19214-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Chiang Mai Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

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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...


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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