Modern economic scheming versus provincial loyalty makes for an endearing thriller.

RIVER RULES

A colorful cast of characters unites to stop one of their own from exploiting a small New England town’s land and water.

Brock Saunders is a blight on the community of Bridgeville, Connecticut. After ripping off the town’s farmers with a Ponzi scheme, he moved into the shadows, helping to facilitate the construction of an eyesore fuel-cell site and working as a consultant for the “New England Council Consortium,” an organization out to monetize the land at the expense of its people. Peter Russo knows well what it’s like to run afoul of Brock. Not only did he rob Peter’s brother and father, but he also raped his dear friend Nancy, an assault she has never gotten over. Though still quite active in his 50s, Peter will have to look to his friends, family, and fellow townsfolk for aid as a conspiracy by Brock and the consortium to sell the area’s water rights to the huge company Eautopia is slowly uncovered, a plot that the group is willing to kill to protect. Despite the high stakes of Fischer’s debut thriller, the book is often quite lighthearted. Peter’s “revenge” on Brock includes merely planting flowers around the ugly power station, and he’s aided in his fight with colorful characters ranging from a part-time private investigator and yoga-obsessed British ex-police officer to an obnoxiously loud ambulance chaser of a lawyer. Peter’s other allies are fully drawn individuals dealing with many of the modern challenges familiar to small communities; his niece, Rachel, is attempting to stay clean after opioid addiction; his ex Carmen, whom he still holds a torch for, lost her daughter to similar challenges; and most of the community suffers under a bureaucratic kleptocracy that isn’t answerable to its neighbors. Chapters are short but never rushed, and the dialogue is natural and funny, slang-filled and prone to friendly swearing and good-natured insults between close friends. As with any small town, there’s a lot of history to cover both about the area and among the characters, but even this is introduced organically, with details left to be fleshed out later on, feeding the story’s intrigue.

Modern economic scheming versus provincial loyalty makes for an endearing thriller.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73274-347-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Green Writers Press

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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