Customer Reviews: The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers: A Novel
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on January 26, 2010
Absolutely loved this book and was telling my friends about it when I was only a third of the way in. (I tend to reserve 5 stars for mind-changing books.) Mullen takes the 1930s gangster teams to a new level by turning the usual tale on its head right off the bat. Set at a time when bank robbers could just as easily be seen as hero or villain, because of all the foreclosures by the banks (sound familiar?), the Firefly Brothers' spree takes on legendary status and for darn good reasons. But...I won't spoil the fun. Suspend disbelief and take the ride with Jason and Whit; it's bumpy but you'll love the wind in your hair almost as much as Darcy did.

Along the way we're forced to think about family relationships, brother to brother, son to father, and how moral choices are made and justified. We also get to 'feel' the Depression from ground level. But it's actually a lot more fun than all that sounds. Heck, just read it for the romping adventure and you'll enjoy it. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I was supposed to enjoy it quite this much. 100% guarantee that there will be arguments about the ending and I look forward to that fun. I can't wait to see what Mullen writes next and what my friends have to say about this book.
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on April 14, 2010
Things I expected from this book: Great historical feel, a good mystery, excitement, and great characters.

What I got from this book: Not those things.

First and foremost, I was looking forward to a good historical novel, with a Depression era feel and some good info on bootleggers and gangsters. However, the overall feel of the novel was decidedly modern, with Mullen trying to make some obvious comparisons between the Great Depression and today's economic climate. There was nothing very period about the novel.

I did get a good mystery -- several of them in fact. They were enough to keep me reading. However, there is no frustration like hanging on to a novel one is not quite enjoying just so one can at least find out the answer... only to not have the answer.

Excitement was there, in between long gaps of dull non-action. The red cover, the fast-moving figure, the subject matter -- all these things promise fast pace, hard action and adventure. This novel was mostly introspective.

And introspective works when the characters have depth, but most of these fell flat for me. I liked Whit, somewhat, but got mostly Jason and his girlfriend Darcy. Oh, well.

Not my cup of tea... or my glass of bootleg whiskey. Lots of people do seem to enjoy it, so by all means, read all the reviews and give it a thought.
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on October 4, 2011
I kept waiting for something big to happen throughout the book and it just never did. If a book does not grab me by the time I am half way through, it is just a waste of my time althought I forced myself to finish because it was a book club read. Still would rather have read a book that was more of a page turner. To me, this was not.
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on July 21, 2015
This tells the story of Jason & Whit Fireson, Depression-era bank robbers who, through their infamy & the press coverage of their crime sprees, get the nickname Firefly Bros. You can just picture some reporter saying "eh... has a better ring to it". After one particular job goes especially wrong, they find themselves waking up in a morgue, not remembering how they got there. Did they really die and come back to life, or is it all some kind of joke someone is playing on them? The brothers go on to have multiple incidents of what seems to be reincarnation. They can't explain it, all they can do is wonder -- if it is an otherworldly gift -- why was it bestowed on them?

Honestly, I was a little bummed with this one. It started out pretty great -- the story concept was pretty cool and I liked the snarky banter between the brothers. There was also some good introspective bits about how the brothers' life choices affected everyone around them, the reprecussions of being acquainted with the Fireson boys. I was thinking I was in for something sort of Supernatural-esque here! But it didn't take long for it to start fizzling out for me.

It didn't feel as magical as I was hoping, and some of the descriptions started to run pretty long for my tastes. There was a lot of hiding, waiting, and reflecting that reminded me of reading Ned Kelly by Robert Drewe (another one I liked initially but got bogged down with slow, boring passages). And why were these guys SO bad at dodging bullets? Were they supposed to be immortal AND magnetic? It got laughable after awhile!

The ending to this novel felt like the author was drawing a blank on a strong ending so just went with "I leave it to you reader." More often than not, this kind of closing irks the bananas out of me. This one won't be staying on my shelves...better luck to the next reader.
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on February 5, 2010
The author's depiction of the 1930's is too real to be comfortable. I was alive during that period, and the author describes the hopelessness and misery of those times as they really were. There were no jobs; some families lived in tents out in the country or vacant lots, and hobo parks were common. There was no welfare, and most people lived wretched lives.

Against this background the author writes about the adventures of Jason Fireston and his brother Whitson, 2 desperadoes in desperate times living their own code of law. The story line is so original I could never imagine where it was going. As the story develops one learns about the family dynamics of the brothers with each other (there is a 3d brother who is a straight arrow) and how each of them became who he is. The story of the family background evolves slowly and is critical to the story. Circumstances and individual beliefs shape the brothers' destinies.

I could not put this book down until my husband ordered me to turn out the lights. I am recommending it to all of my friends and to book clubs. Amelia Koenig
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on May 30, 2016
Read from January 23 to 27, 2014

Come along on a roller-coaster ride through the Depression with a pair of bank robbers who just won’t stay dead. This is one of those books that grabbed me first because of its enigmatic cover art but kept me intrigued by its premise and execution. Good story, well-done.
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on October 13, 2013
It's 1934, with brother outlaws Jason and Whit Fireson awakening in the morgue, pierced with deadly bullet holes and with no idea what's happened, or even whether they're alive, dead, or in between. As they struggle to make sense of their situation, and to escape and stay ahead of the cops, they take advantage of reports of their deaths to plan a few more heists and to find their girls, both of whom have disappeared. Death makes its appearance again (and again), and with the newly-formed FBI finally facing the fact that the Firesons may not really be dead, the law closes in. Will the brothers find their women, one of whom has been kidnapped, and manage to disappear before they're arrested and killed for good? And how many times can they wake from the grave before fate is done with them? This makes the novel sound supernatural, but it's not really. The resurrections are simply one part of the plot, just as confusing to the characters as to the narrator or the reader, and the questions of why and for how many repeats gives an added tension to the plot.

Life in the Great Depression is amply mined to show how the brothers' situation is difficult for the law to decipher: poor photos, lack of communication, piecemeal law enforcement. And the dialogue is often funny and very real, especially between the brothers. This is the second Mullen I've read, after ["he Last Town on Earth", which I also gave 4 stars. Very enjoyable and recommended.
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on February 12, 2013
The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers is the second novel from author Thomas Mullen. I had previously read both first and third books, The Last Town on Earth and The Revisionists respectively, and enjoyed both immensely. So when I found this title at the local library's used book sale, I knew I had to pick it up. And BONUS: It was a signed copy.

Firefly Brothers is set during the Depression-era in the mid-west, when bank robbers and gangsters were seen by many as folk heroes, their exploits followed closely by the ever widening-media. The story centers around two brothers, Jason and Whit Fireson (they obtain the moniker "Firefly brothers" from reporters and the world at large). The brothers are infamous bank robbers and murderers who, of course, are constantly in the news for crimes they commit and more that they don't.
The story begins with death, two deaths to be more precise. Jason and Whit are dead, but miraculously wake up in a morgue, both riddled with bullet holes. They have no memory of the previous night's exploits or their deaths, they only know that they have to get away. Using their now-famous death as cover, the brothers return to the only way of life known to them--robbing banks.

Another side of the story comes from the point of view of Darcy, Jason's girlfriend, who gets left behind not knowing the fate of her lover, until she receives a mysterious telegraph, which gives her hope that Jason is still alive, despite all the rumors and media stories to the contrary.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers is a rich, in depth story full of wondrous details and description. One of my favorite descriptive passages comes about halfway through the book. It's from Weston, the third Fireson brother who isn't a bank robber: "He was afraid of losing things because everyone seemed to be losing things. You walked a few blocks and passed a table or chair lacking legs and sitting there like a war amputee. Or you passed a car whose windshield wipers clung to such a bursting notebook of parking tickets that you knew it was abandoned, its owner having decided it was too expensive to maintain. In certain neighborhoods the police weren't towing cars anymore, so the heaps simply sat there unmolested. Scavengers didn't even strip their parts, because whom could they sell them to?" This passage displays both the desperation and learned apathy of the era that ran rampant through society.

Not only is Mullen's writing beautiful and fascinating, his story telling skills are masterful. Throughout the story, there are subtle hints dropped about Darcy's mental health, and not until about half way through did I start questioning whether the Firefly brothers are actually reanimating. Mullen likes to give his readers something to ponder about throughout his books. He asks questions that are not easy to answer, and it makes for a wonderful and intriguing read every time I pick up one of his books.

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on May 3, 2012
Assuming you can accept the "magic realism" premise that the corpses of two Depression-era bank-robbing brothers keep inexplicably coming back to life and resuming their crime sprees, this is a very readable novel.

The violence is graphic. The many wounds bleed dramatically. But there is a lot of good vivid detail: bank foreclosures, breadlines, unemployment, desperation in the Hoovervilles, bums sleeping in stairwells. A sequence at a marathon dance contest reminded me that I need to watch "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" again.

There is a lot of great snappy toughguy dialogue, colorful slang, gritty action scenes, and some very confused lawmen who don't understand (perhaps like the reader?) why dead criminals who were lying on morgue slabs are gone and have been sighted at yet another bank shootout.

This is not a quick and breezy read. It's 397 pages long, and the constant flashbacks play havoc with the narrative flow, but it gripped me and held my interest as we rushed toward a climax wherein we might learn whether the charismatic Firefly Brothers are ever going to die and stay dead.
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on June 15, 2012
I dove into this book because it seemed such an interesting plot. I was curious to how those "many deaths" would be explained.

Turns out they're not explained at all ... not really. Well, not in the first 40 pages or so. I supposed it was my expectations that disappointed me. I wanted something mysterious. Something really clever. Instead I get clumsy "We're dead; we're alive again" gimmick that seemed pointless.
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