Jerrythespider sadly loses some of the spotlight, but his eight-legged exploits are always entertaining.

The Moroccan-Three Murder Mysteries

From the Adventures of Dr. Greenstone and Jerrythespider Trilogy series , Vol. 2

A medical examiner will need help from his CIA and arachnid pals when his testimony at a murder trial incites the wrong people in Lyen’s (Battle of Top Hat Wood, 2014, etc.) latest adventure.

Dr. Michael Greenstone, on a fishing boat in the Strait of Gibraltar, has a revelation: the voices he’s been hearing lately are from a couple of spiders communicating telepathically. Jerrythespider, a jumping spider sporting a top hat, is there with Michael, acting as the eyes and ears for garden spider Alma back in California. Alma proposes to Michael that the trio seek and destroy evil, and Michael readily agrees. But first he’s lined up as an expert witness for the prosecution in a Moroccan murder trial. Baroness Maria Castilla has supposedly murdered three people with rat poison at a Tangier hotel restaurant. Michael believes the cause of death was something else entirely, a medical opinion that contrasts with the autopsy report. This certainly doesn’t placate prosecuting attorney Jamal Aswadi, who, unfortunately has ties to a terrorist group. Luckily, Michael and Jerry have the CIA on their side, including their contact, Agent Teresina Antonelli. When it’s evident that someone’s marked Michael for assassination, the CIA tries to keep him safe, starting with the fully outfitted Mirage ST Spitfire—complete with liquid spider silk as per Jerry’s suggestion. The second of Lyen’s children’s series concentrates more on story, with returning protagonist Jerry relegated to a supporting role. The educational qualities are still there: Jerry, though anthropomorphized, fears a stomping foot like most other spiders and regularly dines on flies. The narrative even features the cartwheeling Flic-Flac, one of a species discovered fairly recently in Morocco. But despite Denis Proulx’s lively, cartoonish illustrations, parts of the tale may bump it to YA status, from murders, attempted or otherwise, to dodging bullets and terrorists. It favors action and espionage over mystery, as the CIA is rightly more concerned with keeping Michael and Jerry out of danger than finding a killer (or killers). The ending, meanwhile, takes a drastic turn that introduces a new, borderline sci-fi component, but Lyen forgoes elaboration, opting for a cliffhanger instead.

Jerrythespider sadly loses some of the spotlight, but his eight-legged exploits are always entertaining.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 21, 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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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