This thriller offers an intricate puzzle with a few surprises and some strategic power grabs as a hardened journalist...

Naked Ambition

From the The NAKED series series , Vol. 1

A seasoned Washington, D.C., newspaper reporter uncovers a potentially explosive corruption scandal in this debut political novel.

Beck Rikki, a Washington investigative journalist, is casually sipping a Corona Light when he receives a call from Daniel Fahy, a senior figure at the Justice Department. Fahy wants to tip off Beck about a high-ranking politician that he thinks is caught up in a bribery scheme. Beck is intrigued, if a little skeptical, but it has been a while since he’s written a good investigative story. Fahy possesses recordings of U.S. Sen. David Bayard talking about an apparent money-laundering scheme involving his properties in the Cayman Islands. As the money may be coming from a contractor that Bayard’s Senate committee oversees, officials are anxious to prosecute before the next election. Beck starts his probe, but he isn’t sure whether Fahy harbors political motives of his own or plans to set up the reporter somehow. The FBI pays a visit to Geneva Kemper, a fairly sultry lobbyist who works for Serodynne Corporation, a government contractor that has donated funds to Bayard and his PAC. She is also the wife of a senator and something of a recreational nudist. Concerned about the fate of one of Serodynne’s bids, Geneva introduces herself to Beck, hoping to find out information about the investigation. The two begin a torrid affair, and revelations about not just Bayard and his dealings, but also Geneva’s investments and motives put Beck in serious jeopardy. Pullen has written a solid, descriptive thriller that shows that he is well-informed and savvy about the newspaper business and the political world. Beck and Geneva are convincing denizens of the labyrinthine world of post–9/11 and post–Citizens United politics in Washington, and their competing interests in the midst of their affair keep the complex plot from feeling like familiar territory. Geneva, in particular, is quite a creation: a woman who easily excels in this play-for-keeps yet cordial world of deal-making and power plays but despises it and longs to escape. All the characters perform their roles well, even Beck’s trusty red armchair, and in Pullen’s hands the shady and sometimes-judicious relationships among government, business, and journalism are shown in a penetrating and astute manner.

This thriller offers an intricate puzzle with a few surprises and some strategic power grabs as a hardened journalist pursues the story of his career.

Pub Date: May 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-63435-6

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Blair House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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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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