Streets on Fire: A Jack Liffey Mystery Hardcover – Apr 16 2002
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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
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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
It's well written and literate, but its passive protagonist and children as heroes/victims just don't engage the reader. Read morePublished on June 30 2002 by John Bowes
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 morePublished on May 7 2002 by Bob Coe
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 morePublished on May 5 2002 by Susan Lang
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 morePublished on April 30 2002 by ktc001
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 morePublished on April 27 2002 by scott phillips