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