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Streets on Fire: A Jack Liffey Mystery [Hardcover]

John Shannon
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 16 2002 Otto Penzler Books
In the gripping fifth novel of what the Philadelphia Inquirer calls a "lean and literate" crime series, Jack Liffey—the rough-edged, compassionate private detective who garners even more enthusiastic reviews and fans with each new case—once again searches the volatile and dangerous ethnic communities buried in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles for another of the city's mysteriously lost. This time out, Liffey is looking for a prominent 1960s civil rights campaigner's adopted son, who has gone suspiciously missing in the wake of an unsettling run-in with a motorcycle gang at a local jazz club. The whole city is unsettled, in fact, by the choke-hold death of Abdullah-Ibrahim—a black Muslim and the Dodgers' new ace spitball pitcher—at the hands of the L.A. police. In the course of his investigation, Liffey runs afoul of skinheads, white supremacists, and black separatists. He also confronts his own latent racism before the city erupts into the full-fledged civil riot that could cost Liffey his life.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The specter of racial armageddon raises its ugly head in this extended diatribe that's more racial polemic than mystery novel, the fifth Jack Liffey caper after 2001's acclaimed The Orange Curtain. Shannon's rough-edged private dick is searching the L.A. streets for Amilcar Davis, the adopted son of a noted black civil rights activist of the '60s. Amilcar and his white girlfriend (from Simi Valley, so Shannon can drag in the Rodney King affair) have been missing since a run-in with a motorcycle gang. Even more ominously, the city is bracing for a racial confrontation since the choke-hold death of a prominent Black Muslim in a violent imbroglio with police. The result, not surprisingly, is a full-scale riot, from which Liffey barely escapes with his life. The author isn't much concerned with crime solving that's basically an afterthought what he's interested in doing is stirring up the pot. To do this, he tediously and irrelevantly mixes everything skinheads, the Christian Right, white supremacists and black separatists into an indigestible porridge with little regard for racial equanimity or, indeed, for truth. It goes far beyond mere didacticism: the tone is hysterical, the outcome preordained and unbelievable. (The only worthwhile diatribe is one against the long-forgotten Dr. Wertham, the Freudian psychologist who went after Batman and Robin in the '50s for being gay.) Critics have likened Shannon to Raymond Chandler, but based on this poorly plotted performance, he doesn't rate comparison with the forgotten Harry Stephen Keeler.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The Orange Curtain, Shannon's fifth Jack Liffey novel, garnered high praise from critics and drew readers' attention to an intelligent and literate hard-boiled crime series. In his sixth outing, Liffey, a former aerospace worker who tracks missing children for a living, has been hired by Bancroft Davis, a prominent black civil rights leader of the 1960s, to find Davis's missing adopted son and his white girlfriend, who disappeared after a run-in with a skinhead motorcycle gang. While Liffey's search takes him to reactionary Simi Valley, home to some white supremacist groups, the rest of Los Angeles is caught in a wave of unrest, stirred by the brutal police attack (shades of Rodney King) on Abdullah-Ibrahim, a black Muslim and the new star pitcher for the Dodgers. Unbeknownst to Liffey, his teenage daughter, Maeve, decides to play Nancy Drew (having just discovered the books) by also looking for the missing pair. Although the plot lines don't run as seamlessly as in the previous book, Shannon's latest is still full of memorable, fully rounded characters and richly detailed scenes of L.A. life at its most strange and bizarre. Strongly recommended. Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart Pounding June 10 2004
In the 5th book of the Jack Liffey series, John Shannon has created dual plots that start off as two completely separate incidents, but become extremely significant to each other and to the outcome of the story. His control of these plots is very effective, never letting one storyline take over the other. Instead, he just reminds us occasionally that there is "another danger" out there.
Jack Liffey is an unofficial private detective who specialises in finding missing children. In this case, the plot that has Liffey's attention is an investigation into the disappearance of a black boy and his white girlfriend. There is a strong suggestion that their disappearance may have something to do with an earlier altercation with a bike gang.
In the course of his investigation, Liffey crosses paths with the aforementioned bike gang, has a major run-in with an unusual but extremely dangerous religious group and meets Ornetta, the delightful shining light of the story. Ornetta is an 11-year-old girl who has an incredible gift for storytelling. She steals every scene in which she appears, which is fortunately many.
The wider storyline running in parallel to the Liffey focus is a wave of rioting that has broken out throughout L.A. on the back of the knocking unconscious of a black baseball star by a member of the LAPD. The riots are triggered when the officer involved is acquitted of any wrongdoing. The ongoing riots play a major part in the story as Liffey is caught up in them in a desperate race against time while crossing from one side of the city to the other.
A much larger role in this book compared to earlier books is given to Maeve, Jack's 15 year old daughter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shannon Flows As Strongly As Ever May 26 2002
Apocalypses of all sorts--from earthquakes to toxic clouds--frame the vision of
Los Angeles shown in the blunt and brilliant crime novels of John Shannon, so
when his Jack Liffey notices "dark columns of smoke rising up and then shearing
off westward at several points in South Central, offerings unacceptable to the
gods" quite early in this fifth book in the series, you know that fiery hell is soon to
break loose.
Michael Connelly's best-selling L.A. cop is named after painter Hieronymus
Bosch, but Shannon's backgrounds are straight out of Goya: savagely sardonic
comments on the quirks of life. Watching a parade of blacks protesting police
brutality, Liffey is amazed to see the marchers suddenly break step and execute
a perfect pair of Zulu war kicks. "Even here in the world of cell phones and MTV,
the Zulu strut carried a kind of bizarre menace, as if thrusting onlookers into a
dimension where ordinary defenses might not work."
Liffey, who specializes in finding missing children, knows from the start that the
two lost young people he has been hired to trace this time are almost certainly
dead: The black college student and his white girlfriend have disappeared after a
run-in with a racist motorcycle gang called the Bone Losers--so far down on the
mental food chain that they can't even spell their chosen name right. But the
young man is the adopted, much-loved son of a famous activist couple in South
Central, and Liffey's detective friend Ivan Monk (on loan from Gary Phillips'
excellent series) recommends Liffey for the job.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally gripping adventure May 20 2002
When a young interracial couple vanishes, private detective Jack Liffey is hired to investigate. It isn't a good time for Jack--he's worried about his girlfriend and his daughter, and it isn't a good time for Los Angeles, racked by racial tension and riot, but Liffey goes to work. The police and even the FBI have muddied the waters but the missing man's niece gives him his biggest clue. Now if Liffey can stay along long enough, he may learn the truth. Unfortunately for him, staying alive is difficult when a well armed and determined group of Christian extremists are after you.
Author John Shannon delivers an emotionally compelling and satisfying mystery. Liffey's attempts at detection are bounded at one side by his daughter's attempts to help--which end up creating any father's ultimate nightmare--and at the other by the riots that threaten to send Los Angeles into flames. Clinging to his much abused moral code, Liffey must survive both white extremists and African-American gang bangers.
Shannon brings a left-wing slant to his writing, but this doesn't keep him from delivering an exciting and fast-paced adventure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Noir with something extra April 15 2002
With each new Jack Liffey book, Shannon seems to go from strength to strength. I found STREETS ON FIRE even more gripping than its predecessors, as Liffey feels the heat of LA's troubled race relations. As usual he finds himself in all kinds of trouble, both personal and public, with little more than his own unflinching honesty to fall back on. And as usual, Shannon uncovers new layers of the vast and endlessly quirky city that he is making distinctively his own. Like his forebears Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Shannon combines a ruefully affectionate eye for the details of Californian life with a more trenchant vision of American society. Yet in the midst of the tension and mayhem, and the stunted personalities who reflect America's discordant history, we also meet characters who touch us with their creativity, courage, and generosity under fire. I believe that with each new book Shannon's Los Angeles is growing into one of the most fully imagined urban environments in contemporary fiction.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Why the Kids?
It's well written and literate, but its passive protagonist and children as heroes/victims just don't engage the reader. Read more
Published on June 30 2002 by John Bowes
5.0 out of 5 stars Jack Liffey, Existentialist Gumshoe
Streets on Fire. What's all the controversy about? This is a great book that elevates the mystery genre. It challenges, provokes, and informs the reader. Read more
Published on May 7 2002 by Bob Coe
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Liffey Winner
John Shannon has done it again--kept me up till the wee hours, then had me dead on my feet at work the next day. Read more
Published on May 5 2002 by Susan Lang
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favorite author
I have been reading John Shannon's Jack Liffey series with increasing excitement - at last, an author who dives headfirst into the complicated and emotionally-charged issues of... Read more
Published on April 30 2002 by ktc001
5.0 out of 5 stars an entertaining book with serious underpinnings
With "Streets on Fire" John Shannon delivers another winning book, as entertaining a read as anything he's done, despite his audacity in throwing some relevant political... Read more
Published on April 27 2002 by scott phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars Once again, brilliant!
I have to shake my head in bemusement at the pure venom of the Publishers Weekly review. Clearly, the reviewer had an agenda, and he vented at John Shannon's expense in what is not... Read more
Published on April 14 2002 by Charlotte Vale-Allen
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