Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mystery Book Review: The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

Mysterious Reviews

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

by
Non-series

Random House (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-4000-6753-7 (1400067537)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4000-6753-4 (9781400067534)
Publication Date: January 2010
List Price: $26.00

Review: Thomas Mullen's second novel, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers, follows the exploits -- and the deaths -- of two young men who lead a well-publicized life of crime in Indiana during the Great Depression.

Jason and Whitman "Whit" Fireson, known far and wide as the Firefly brothers, are successful bank robbers, their daring crimes documented -- and glamorized -- by the press. That is until they are shot dead while hiding out following their largest take to date. Much to their surprise, they awaken (come to life?) in the morgue, the blood drying around their multiple, presumably fatal, bullet wounds. They flee, unsure what had happened but sure that their mother, Jason's girlfriend and Whit's wife, need to know they're alive. But staying dead may be more difficult than robbing banks for the brothers, as a second and third death await them.

It's tempting to try to label The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers as something other than a historical novel. It's certainly historical, no argument there, with sweeping and illustrative narrative describing the 1930s environment in which the Firefly brothers live (and die). Yet, from the way it is written (but not structured), there's a distinct impression that the author may also want the book to be considered more than just a literary exercise, to be more of, for lack of a better term, a thriller. Or, given its subject matter, an allegorical thriller. But it's paced far too slowly for a thriller and, somewhat paradoxically given how violent some of the scenes are, it's too light, almost playful, to generate any sustained suspense, even when it comes to the basic question of how and why the brothers are reborn, as it were. (To be fair, the publisher never characterizes the book as a thriller in any way, but as an "imaginative and spirited saga".)

There is the (initially clever) surreal immortality aspect of the principal characters and the parallels drawn between the time period of the story and that of today, but by the third death, the concept becomes derivative, pedestrian even. The book is ably written, to be sure, and the brothers are charming and charismatic characters, but in the end, the plot lacks focus and closure. Despite its interesting and provocative title, readers expecting a mystery, suspense or crime novel may well be disappointed.

Special thanks to Random House for providing a copy of The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Jason and Whit Fireson are bank robbers known as the Firefly Brothers by the press, the authorities, and an adoring public that worships their acts as heroic counterpunches thrown at a broken system.

Now it appears they have at last met their end in a hail of bullets. Jason and Whit’s lovers—Darcy, a wealthy socialite, and Veronica, a hardened survivor—struggle between grief and an unyielding belief that the Firesons have survived. While they and the Firesons’ stunned mother and straight-arrow third son wade through conflicting police reports and press accounts, wild rumors spread that the bandits are still at large. Through it all, the Firefly Brothers remain as charismatic, unflappable, and as mythical as the American Dream itself, racing to find the women they love and make sense of a world in which all has come unmoored.

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