The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

I don't remember how I came across this book.  Most likely just browsing in the library for something that looked good.  This was published in 2010, so it wasn't my usual grab a book off of the new bookshelf.  It was a risk grabbing this one.  It's a paperback, so no book flap with a  synopsis and no synopsis on the back cover.  Just reviews.  A quick scan of the first couple of pages grabbed enough of my attention to check it out.

Set in the middle years of The Great Depression, The Many Deaths... gives us a taste of what it might have been like for the notorious bank robbers of the era.  The Firefly Brothers rank right up there with the likes of Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, the Barker Gang, "Pretty Boy" Floyd and "Baby Face" Nelson.  In The Many Deaths... the brothers become Public Enemy Number One following the death of Dillinger.  For 2 weeks the Bureau of Investigation (precursor to today's FBI) focus their attention on the Firefly Brothers.  Initially, the Bureau believed the men to be dead, as they were shot and killed in the opening pages of the book.  This was their first death.  Rumors of their resurrection flew around the country.  Following their death, they were spotted multiple times a day in various cities around the Midwest and sometimes in places where only teletransportation would have been the only means for them to have appeared.  The Bureau discounts these rumors and once the Bureau decides the brothers are still alive, local and state police are believed to be at fault.  Perhaps it wasn't really the Firefly Brothers who were shot and killed as was initially believed.  Perhaps it was two other men, misidentified.  What ensues is a journey of constant movement by the brothers as they try to stay one step ahead of law enforcement and gain freedom from the life of a fugitive. 

We get glimpses into their lives outside of infamy, as sons, brothers, lover and husband through flashbacks and current (setting) action.  The reader is given insight into how the brothers, Jason and Whit Fireson, came to be the Firefly Brothers and Public Enemy Number One.  The author provides an impression of life for the common members of the era as well as for the more infamous members of society.  The author, Thomas Mullen, researched the era and the notorious characters of that time.  He provides resources at the end of the book.

The four main characters are portrayed in such a way as to evoke sympathy, no matter what side of the law they occupy.  Mullen gives them depth and dimension.  We come to understand what drives them to do what they do.  Other characters are merely sketches compared to the 4, but are depicted enough to lend significant meaning to their role in the lives of the brothers and the "good" guy.

Mullen has 3 books in his repertoire.  His first, The Last Town on Earth, received excellent reviews and was one of the top 10 debuts of the year when published in 2006.  His most recent tome, The Revisionists (2011), has also received rave reviews.  The premise in each of his 3 novels is quite different from story to story, but each has the thread of politics and history (history in quotes for Revisionists) coursing through and a bit of sci-fi in the 2 latter novels.  I look forward to reading The Last Town on Earth  and The Revisionists as I really enjoyed The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers.

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