The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
There's no doubt that Mullen did some research for this book, because any one who has read a couple of non-fiction books about Dillinger and his ilk are going to recognize that a lot of the anecdotes that have been recorded about those men show up in this book, only it's the fictional Firefly brothers of the title who are living the events. Certainly, sometimes the real criminals get a mention, but readers of Bryan Burroughs' Public Enemies (which Mullen does acknowledge as one of his sources) will find a lot of this fiction more than vaguely familiar.
There's a bit a paranormal to this book, with characters who seem to be unable to die. This allows them to confound the reluctant FBI agent assigned to stop them as well as become mythic heroes to the general public. (Again, sound familiar, 30's true crime fans?)
A mystery thread weaves itself through the story: Who betrayed the brothers before their first death? And why? Mullen attempts to use non-linear story telling keep that secret hidden until the very end, but I think most readers will see the answers coming so far in advance they'll wonder how the brothers didn't figure it out.
Aside from its meanders into other genres, this is a decent work of historical fiction. The locations and time period are more than back ground, they have as much dimension as any of the characters, and as the Firefly brothers move through the Depression era MidWest, its where they are that is more interesting than what they're doing.
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