The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers
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.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided a copy of The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers: Indiana
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The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: January 2010
List Price: $26.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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