In an era as politically mercurial as our own, even the most far-fetched events depicted here sound utterly plausible—except...

THE INNOCENT HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR

That title may be the biggest of this satiric thriller’s red herrings, since, as far as this book is concerned, there are no innocents in the political process.

A charismatic right-wing Republican populist with a hectoring anti-immigrant riff is running for president, and the only person who can slow his roll is a woman moderate with ties to the outgoing administration. No, this book is not about the 2016 presidential campaign. But the fact that even these aspects of the novel are in sync with current events validates its author’s credentials as a cagey veteran political operative. That description applies to crafty, cynical J.D. Callahan, who normally would find a million reasons to avoid going back home to New Orleans except that it happens to be the site of a wide-open GOP convention pitting his candidate, incumbent Vice President Hilda Smith, against Colorado Gov. Armstrong George, who’s running on a platform powered by anti-terror paranoia as exemplified by what J.D. characterizes as “the crazy train of his wacky New Bill of Rights.” Callahan’s efforts to match the Veep’s steely rationality against George’s xenophobic bluster are bumrushed by bombs scattered throughout Crescent City that panic the locals and scare some of the fence-sitting delegates into George’s rising column of support. As J.D. struggles to keep both his head and his client in the game, he’s also got to deal with vicious backbiting from within the Smith staff, somewhat irrational (and also improbable) suspicions from the FBI that J.D. himself is somehow responsible for the bombs, a sexy gossip columnist with informed knowledge of serious firearms, and a pair of estranged half siblings with dubious issues of their own, one a pardoned felon seeking his brother’s help for a run at state office, the other an ex–GI–turned–skinhead strip-club owner. These and other characterizations are as quirky as J.D.’s rueful, acerbic commentaries, which make up the best part of this fast-paced carnival of bile, guile, and blow-ups.

In an era as politically mercurial as our own, even the most far-fetched events depicted here sound utterly plausible—except for maybe one thing: moderate Republicans? Really? What are those?

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-451-49319-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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