Kemper's Reviews > The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen
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's review
Mar 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: sci-fi, crime-mystery, bad-guys-rule, thieves

People love to turn certain types of outlaws into folk heroes. Thieves and murderers are portrayed as varying versions of Robin Hood, and when they die, there are often stories about how they faked their deaths somehow. Billy the Kid and John Dillinger were both rumored to be alive long after they met their ends. Jesse James was dug up and DNA testing done a century after he was killed to prove it was really him in the grave. But what if there were famous outlaws who simply couldn’t die?

Jason and Whit Fireson are brothers who lead the so-called Firefly gang of bank robbers during the Great Depression. The death of Dillinger has made them the top priority for J. Edgar Hoover’s fledgling Bureau of Investigation. The book begins with their deaths. Sort of.

The Fireson brothers wake up in the morgue with fatal bullet wounds. Confused and scared, they quickly escape and try to figure out what happened to them during their last day and how they managed to come back from the dead.

The police think that their bodies were stolen and Jason sees this a great opportunity to vanish forever with no one looking for them. They need money to get away and they plan to pull a couple of bank jobs and then disappear with confusion about their reported deaths keeping a serious man-hunt from being done. But Jason’s girlfriend has been kidnapped, and their uncertainty about how they died and returned is haunting them. The title of the book should be a clue that the dying isn’t over for the Fireson’s yet.

This was a unique idea for a story with an interesting structure. It starts with their ‘deaths’ and then uses flashbacks to tell the story of the Fireson family along with how Jason and Whit turned to bank robbery.. I liked how the author didn’t play along with the usual ‘30s era bank robber Robin Hood myth. Whit has leftist radical tendencies and tries to think of the robberies as class warfare, but Jason doesn’t allow himself such delusions. He knows that they’re just criminals.

The book also does a nice job of showing the toll that this takes on the non-criminal members of their family like their brother Weston, who has to try and hold onto his job even as the Bureau of Investigation is putting pressure on his employer. There was also a lot of interesting detail about life during the Great Depression.

Good book that put an interesting twist on the legend of the Depression-era bank robbers.
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