An engaging though didactic tale of faith gone wrong.

The Blood Doctrine

The Poores, a father-son writing team, craft a novel that revolves around a murder investigation, though it’s more so an extensively researched exploration of religion and hate crimes.

One September morning in Utah, James gets the latest in a string of visits from Elder Lee and Elder Jenkins, a pair of Mormon missionaries. James’ revelation that he’s gay gets the missionaries to leave him alone. Lee says he thinks the world would be better off without homosexuals, and Jenkins calmly tries to rebuke him, reminding Lee, “They are still children of God and the Lord does love them.” The next morning, James’ partner finds him on the couch, his throat slashed. Detective Klingensmith is put on the case, and he can’t get the question out of his mind: “Why would a missionary commit murder?” To answer this question, he crisscrosses Utah and delves into some of the more obscure doctrines of the Church of Latter-day Saints, which the Poores back up with meticulous research and citations. In their preface, the authors write, “No religion wants the most outrageous atrocity in American history [the Mountain Meadows massacre, in which a Mormon militia slaughtered over 100 emigrants] shared with their adolescent members, especially the LDS church,” so readers might not expect a nuanced, fair portrait of Mormonism. Thankfully, though, most of the religion’s representatives here aren’t people who would wantonly kill gays. Still, it’s a bit hard to believe that a missionary would commit a heinous crime purely as a result of the intellectual motivations of his church, especially since Lee isn’t a terribly complex villain. Instead, the book—despite its solid, simple writing and quick pace, perfect for a crime novel—focuses too much on digging through Mormon history and theology. Though interesting, it falls short when readers might be looking for more realistic characters and less didacticism. Nevertheless, overall, it’s a captivating, thought-provoking read, willing to deal with tough questions about the roots of evil.

An engaging though didactic tale of faith gone wrong. 

Pub Date: March 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0985842109

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Patterson Crossroads

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2013

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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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