An intelligent, thought-provoking adventure story and a fine debut.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

A tense debut action-thriller that hinges on a pair of related kidnappings.

At the start of Jacobs’ taut novel, Tsarina “Tsara” Abrams lives comfortably in the New England suburbs with her husband, David Adelman, and their two kids, Abbie and Josh. One day, she receives an engraved invitation from her uncle, businessman Castle Thornlocke, to attend a charity fundraiser at the palatial Thornlocke estate in Libertyville, N.H. The fundraiser is for a worthy cause, a cancer center, and Tsara’s brother Court has also been invited. Their relationship with their uncle has always been tense and adversarial, but it seems that Uncle Cass’ new wife, Alicia, has mellowed him somewhat, and Tsara believes that his invitation might be an attempt to mend fences. She makes the trip to the New Hampshire mountains, and at first, all seems well—but her first night under her uncle’s roof, she’s kidnapped by two men and brought to a remote cabin in the woods. They explain that her uncle is holding one of the kidnappers’ children hostage (along with half a dozen others’) in his estate’s wine cellar in order to coerce them into paying outstanding debts. Her uncle, it seems, is a ruthless power broker, with the corrupt local police entirely at his disposal, and Tsara’s desperate kidnappers see no alternative but to threaten him using similar methods. Jacobs presents the ensuing tense moral and tactical standoff with smooth skill and intense readability. Her sense of the New Hampshire landscape is vividly atmospheric (“The sky was azure, wisped with occasional brushes of clouds, and the trees were rocket bursts of fall color”), and her characters are refreshingly three-dimensional; by the end, Jacobs even makes a monstrous villain such as Thornlocke understandable, if not sympathetic. The novel is fast-paced right from the end of the first chapter, and the dialogue is crisply believable throughout. Fans of mystery writers such as Lisa Scottoline and William Kent Krueger will find much to entertain them here.

An intelligent, thought-provoking adventure story and a fine debut.

Pub Date: June 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615805597

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Linden Tree Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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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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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