ECLIPSE

A sprawling but sporadically engrossing ecothriller from old- pro Cox (Park Plaza, 1991, etc.). Here, Somali poachers who've been wreaking systematic havoc on Kenya's protected wildlife plan a climactic coup during a rare total eclipse of the sun. Sally Facetti, a handsome young consular official at the US Embassy in Nairobi, has a full plate. Colonel Tom Keen, the legation's military attachÇ, has shown her satellite photos detailing the damage done indigenous elephant herds by the armed and dangerous gang of ivory hunters; meanwhile, a Peace Corps volunteer with an influential mom has gone missing in the bush; and Sally's been assigned to wetnurse an American astronomer in country with a demanding tour group for the eclipse. The stargazer is slated to set up camp at a hinterland farm owned by the Cawstons, a settler family with troubles of their own. With the patriarch (once a white hunter) dying, his son Rory and widowed daughter Sophie can't agree about whether to turn the vast acreage into a commercial game preserve or to keep raising cattle on it. Helpful Sally devises a mixed-use plan that could attract funding from environmental groups and support from the Kenyan government. The resourceful scheme gains her the respect of manly Rory, but Sally must still deal with a Wildlife Minister whose venal half-brother is in league with the well-equipped raiders who've been pillaging the poorly policed interior. Though tracked by Rory and Keen, the poachers reach their primary objective, a herd of rhinos temporarily penned up on Cawston property, slaughtering the animals for their horns at the height of the eclipse. A manhunt ensues, and only one marauder escapes the dragnet. Withal, Sally gets Rory (whose unhappy wife leaves him at a decidedly opportune juncture), and there's a sense that First Worldlings can save Kenya's treasures from a feckless populace. Cox keeps the pot boiling merrily until the disappointingly tame close, when he seems in a hurry to depart the exotic locales he's so vividly rendered.

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-13966-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1996

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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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