A mystery that thoughtfully reflects on the hazy line between suspicion and reckless mania.


A reality TV star grieves over the death of his best friend and increasingly suspects foul play in this novel. 

In 2025, Jason Debord stars on the TV show Beached, a Survivor-like competition that pits contestants against one another on a remote island, with each vying to be the last one remaining. During its taping, he forges a close friendship with Billy Gerding, and the pair form an alliance on the show, based on strategy and mutual trust. Then Billy suddenly and mysteriously dies, and the producers quickly say that it was a suicide. Jason feels anguish over the loss, but also nagging suspicions that Billy’s death wasn’t accidental. Debut author Hacker convincingly portrays his protagonist’s inner turmoil. Jason thinks that maybe he was killed by another contestant—and Nick, the “villain of the season,” is the prime suspect in this theory. Or maybe the network conspired to kill Billy, he thinks—although this hypothesis lacks a likely motive. Jason gradually reveals his concerns to all who know him—he even contacts Billy’s estranged sister, Emily—but his anxious musings are generally dismissed as flights of fancy. However, he simply can’t let the issue drop—especially after someone breaks into his home, and an aggressive driver forces him off the road. Meanwhile, Jason’s psychiatrist girlfriend Blake becomes increasingly concerned for his mental health. Then Jason uncovers evidence of a larger criminal conspiracy. Over the course of the story, Hacker cleverly shifts between various modes of narration—Jason’s journal entries, phone calls, and text exchanges, as well as third-person omniscience, and this stylistic choice allows the author to deftly compare a range of different perspectives. As a result, the novel artfully keeps the reader in a state of indecision, as Jason sometimes seems unhinged, but at other times perfectly rational. The overall pace of the plot is much too slow, however, and some readers may well tire of the tale about two-thirds of the way through. But overall, this whodunit is intelligently conceived and well-executed. 

A mystery that thoughtfully reflects on the hazy line between suspicion and reckless mania.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73350-492-8

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Anywhere Press

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2019

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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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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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