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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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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