There is a lot of pressure on an author whose 2006 debut novel garnered universal critical acclaim, but thankfully, Thomas Mullen entirely delivers with The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers. Sticking close to his talent for historical fiction, Mullen joins magical realism to hard-boiled crime drama in a Depression era tale of robbery and redemption that spans the entire Midwest. Voicing this adventure is none other than William Dufris. Dufris is the recipient of 15 Golden Earphones Awards, and with nearly 200 audiobooks to his credit, he is a master of the many subtle accents that animate this particular story.
Replete with amusing comparisons to John Dillinger, this is the story of the Firefly Brothers two men in search of enough money to retire from robbing banks, and a way to understand their father. Jason and Whit, one brother a practical leader and one brother an idealistic wildcard, each die no less than four times during the course of the novel. Riddled with the bullets of their traitorous gang and mostly just lucky law enforcement officers, the brothers yearn to reconnect with their lovers and achieve closure with their family. Darcy and Veronica, alongside the boys’ mother and squeaky clean youngest brother, each have their own problems everything from kidnapping to hunger pains in the bread line. Can the Firefly Brothers cheat death long enough to achieve the normal life of which they’ve dreamed, or will fate finally catch up with them?
Dufris is working his own brand of magic here. As the native Ohioan Firefly Brothers are on the run through Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and elsewhere, Dufris displays a remarkable dexterity of accent and an ability to keep his many characters straight. This is hardly an easy task, as only the finest ear could distinguish particulars amidst the swarm of classic bumbling cops. The noir crime story quipping is rapid-fire, and Dufris manages to provide real layers of emotion on top of his seamless negotiation of the differences between the brothers’ nasal Ohioan, the clipped consonants of Chicagoan businessmen, and the low growl of Iowan farmers. He can even throw in a seedy Irish club owner, just for good measure. There is a Midwestern diversity in Dufris’ voice work that is delicately expert, adhering faithfully both to true regional dialects and gangster genre conventions. The broad telling of this tall tale is not to be missed. Megan Volpert
Late one night in August 1934, following a yearlong spree of bank robberies across the Midwest, Jason and Whit Fireson are forced into a police shootout and die for the first time. Now it appears that the bank robbers known as the Firefly Brothers by an admiring public 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.
Complete with kidnappings and gangsters, heiresses and speakeasies, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers is an imaginative and spirited saga about what happens when you are hopelessly outgunned---and a masterly tale of hardship, redemption, and love that transcends death.
©2009 Thomas Mullen (P)2010 Tantor
“Mullen makes the despair of the Great Depression palpable, as his antiheroes become folk icons to the downtrodden people of the Midwest resentful of a government that can't help them.” (Publishers Weekly Starred Review)
This was an ok read, but I kind of wish I had spent my time on a different book. It just never really grabbed me, and most of the book's revelations you'll spot coming. Also I won't say it ruined the book for me, but the author never really offers any kind of explanation for the brothers' multiple resurrections. It wouldn't be a problem except that there is exactly one other random character who experiences the same thing for no discernible reason. Anyway, this is not a terrible book or anything. I would just say that there are many better and more satisfying options available from audible.
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