Falling for Johnny

The friendship between a teenage girl and an Irish crime boss becomes twisted when she finds out his true identity…


Fifteen-year-old Riley Donovan has no idea that her father is a bookie. She thinks her mother’s death was an accident. Yet, it happened because her father didn’t pay the infamous Irish crime boss Johnny McPherson.

Riley doesn’t realize that the nice old gentleman named Johnny whom she sits on a bench with each morning is the ruthless crime boss responsible for her mother’s death.

As Riley’s father spends more and more time drinking, and sleeping with a barfly, Johnny becomes her father figure. He’s drawn to Riley because she reminds him of his dead daughter. Riley’s curiosity soon leads her to discover Johnny’s identity. She enters a dangerous labyrinth from which she must escape.

Based on 33 Reviews
Jana Dillon
July 2, 2022

5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic, exciting, sophisticated page-turner

I bought Falling for Johnny in a local shop, because of the letter from crime boss Whitey Bulger, and because it is based on his life albeit fictionalized. I was amazed by how good the writing is, how authentic the setting and tough culture of the characters are, and what a page turner it is. At 69 it’s hard for me to find a book that fills me with as much anticipation as this one did. It delivers!

May 29, 2022

5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read!

I found this hood to be very engaging from the beginning and it really it heats up at the end. It’s a fast-paced page-turner throughout. You won’t have to fight your way through it. Loosely based on Boston area crime boss Whitey Bulger. Set in the Boston area. I recommend it highly. Suitable for older teens and adults of all ages. (I’m 65.). I look forward to reading other books by this author.

Suzanne Banville
February 17, 2016

5.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for your next book.

Falling for Johnny is a great read from beginning to end. The suspense and twists keep you reading. This book is a creatively written, easy read that has a great story line. It will make you open your eyes when it comes to trust.

Reef Bros
February 17, 2016

5.0 out of 5 stars Read Me Now!

‘Johnny’ . . . easy to read . . . hard to put down . . . excellent!!! Alison’s first novel . . . personally signed hard copy travelled back to Australia with me and continues to do the rounds of my literary family.

October 16, 2015

5.0 out of 5 stars Must read this book!!!!!!

This book is great

mallory richardson
December 15, 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars A must read!!!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Falling for Johnny has two parts. The first part of the book is all about Johnny. His childhood, running away with the circus, going to prison, and how he becomes the man he is as he gets older. The second part is about Riley, and how she meets Johnny and forms a special bond with him. Riley thinks of Johnny as a sweet gentleman. Little does she know who he really is, what he does for a living, and what he’s capable of doing. To Johnny, Riley reminds him of his daughter that died when she was little. He just wants to protect her and keep her safe, even after finding out that her dad is the guy that hasn’t paid him his money, and that he’s the one responsible for Riley’s mother dying. Riley is just a 15 year old girl who shouldn’t be going through half the stuff she’s dealing with. After her mom dies, Riley and her father move to a bad part of town. Her father starts drinking again and is never really around. She has to go to a new school where she only really makes one friend, and there’s a boy on her street who harasses her and won’t leave her alone. Meeting Johnny brightens up her days. He’s becomes a friend who listens to her problems, and becomes a fatherly figure to her. What will Riley do when she finds out who Johnny is and what he’s done? Overall I really enjoyed this book. This is my first time reading a book from this author, and I look forward to reading more from Alison McLennan.

Patricia painter
August 9, 2014

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast moving, vivid descriptions – couldn't put it down

GREAT READ!!! I loved this book. The author sets the scene, gets to the point and vividly describes what is happening. It is fast moving, and is actually a sometimes tough, but overall lovely story. It portrays real life in the rough parts of Boston experienced by people who have fallen onto tough times, yet the strength within the young woman carries it through to a triumphant. The formatting of the book is great with short chapters that kept me totally locked in. It’s one of those books that I missed when I had finished it! YEA for Ms. McLennan on this super first book. Can’t wait for her next one!

Leslie N
February 28, 2014

5.0 out of 5 stars Falling for Alison

Alison McLennan’s debut novel was a page turner. Falling for Johnny is a great story illustrating just how small the world can be.

E James Anderson
November 25, 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and unforgettable gut-wrenching novel

FALLING FOR JOHNNY is an intriguing story that gains in momentum until its last page. It is ostensibly the story of a teenage girl’s complicated relationship with a Boston Irish crime boss, who may be one of the most fascinating and frightening characters in contemporary literature. (He is based on a real criminal that disappeared and then, incredibly, resurfaced thirty years later around the time of the novel’s publication.) Unknown to the girl, fifteen year old Riley Donovan, the crime boss is responsible for the violent deaths of the girl’s mother and father. The insight into Johnny “The Camel” McPherson is incredible. Some of the best parts of the novel concern his early history. If you think mobsters are all like John Gotti or Tony Soprano, McPherson will change that. He is a health nut and his sociopathic understanding of people combined with his long homicidal past keeps the reader in constant fear for Riley, even though their relationship is often benign and almost sweet. This novel digs deep into the primary characters, their histories and motivations. The secondary characters are unique and compelling, especially The Camel’s “crew.” The end result is a novel that holds the reader’s attention because it is impossible not to be drawn to Riley, to be awed by her courage and toughness as she fights her way into womanhood. This is not a novel that can be read and forgotten.

June 3, 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars very engrossing

I enjoyed Falling for Johnny. The descriptions were vivid without being flowery. Some of the descriptions of the cold weather – seen through the point of view of the Riley character – made me feel like I was back in Massachusetts (I used to live there). The author shows a knack for illustrating dark, disturbed characters. I really felt the pain of the Riley character.

May 29, 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read

Exciting, well-paced novel that draws you in from the beginning. The author has clearly done her research on the topic and seems to have an innate familiarity with a lot of the places mentioned in the book. Despite being a part crime novel, this book is universal in the sense that everyone can likely relate to the main character Riley Donovan, even if they did not have a relationship with a mafioso. A must for Whitey Bulger junkies and anyone interested crime stories that take place in the Boston area.

Cindy Spangler
February 11, 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars I love this Author :)

This was a very good book! Couldn’t put it down! I love the whole story line! Great Author and I can’t wait to see more of her work!

January 29, 2013

3.0 out of 5 stars Good until end

It really kept me reading and was had to put down. I wanted to know what happened to the characters, especially Riley. The end was disappointing because Johnny got away. We have to just imagine, I guess what happens to Riley. The end is disappointing.

mart l. cook
January 26, 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars It had my mind racing

I really enjoyed this book. I don’t read much fiction; but I watch a lot of movies. When reading this book, I was reminded of: The Departed, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Midnight Run, and Million Dollar Baby. In all cases, I list these as a compliment. This book would make a great movie. I like the situation where a powerful person decides that he has to kill someone who is a personal threat, even though the consequences of killing the person could be as bad as or worse than the threat. I was surprised at the breadth of interesting topics that come up in the book: MK Ultra, circus knives, Alcatraz, and AA. I did not know that using toilet paper on wounds is bad. This is a very well written book. There was a very high wince factor for how and when the character’s paths would connect. It had my mind racing; and I was constantly, pleasantly surprised. It was not predictable. All of the chapters are very well packaged; each chapter can stand alone as a short story.

November 28, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars FALLING FOR JOHNNY

This book has real drama and suspense. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and the descriptions of Boston and the many areas there were sooo realistic.. . The characters very likable and beleivable. I especially enjoyed the main character Johnny, who was a curious mixture of both good and evil. I would like to read a sequel to this drama.

Amy Penstemon
November 21, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful Crime Novel with Great New England Flavor!

Dees days in Rhode Island, wheah I live now, dey’d call dis book “wicked good.” Organized crime has a little touch of appeal, even to folks strictly on the up and up, and this story paints a compelling portrait of rewarded subversion–or does it? Just what a reader needs sometimes: a little vicarious underbelly experience. A good reminder to be careful of what you wish for. Lots of authentic Boston flavor (the author grew up in this area), well-developed characters, and a lot of action make this book a great read. Highly recommended.

Jeanne Ballard
November 9, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars A captivating read that takes the reader back in time.

The book is a short, light read that is both captivating and timely, since Mr. Bulger is still alive, but recently hospitalized for chest pains. Having lived in the Boston area herself, the author presents an accurate description of the environment in which both she and the protagonist grew up. The fictional account of the formative years of the two main characters is both vivid and believable, and depicts how two people exposed to similar early life circumstances can choose diverging pathways with markedly dissimilar outcomes.

game cridic
October 29, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars Sharply Written and Thoroughly Entertaining

What would you do if you discovered the person you trusted most in the world was responsible for your mother’s death? Falling for Johnny is first and foremost the story of a young woman, Riley, whose life unwittingly becomes tangled up with Johnny “The Camel” McPherson, the number one crime lord in Boston. McLennan paints a vivid picture of both the city and the characters that lurk in its darkest recesses. She has the unusual talent of creating prose that’s both beautifully written and popular in appeal – think suspense, crime, and a story line that compelled me to finish the book in two days. I made my strongest alliance with Riley, the young woman unwittingly trapped in the crossfire of mobsters, who became the fulcrum on which the story balances. I give the novel five stars based on the high quality of the writing and its enjoyment factor.

October 20, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars Falling For Johnny is A MUST Read!

Loved It! This book has the perfect mix of crime and drama with a hint of perversion for the ladies. I highly recommend!

Annette Garman
September 8, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly Surprised

I’m not a reader at all. It’s just not something that I enjoy. Purely out of curiosity I picked this book up off of a friend’s coffee table. I was unable to put it down until I finished reading it. I was sorry to see it end. I will definitely check into the website listed above by the person who left the previous comment.

Jeannine Renz
August 29, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put the book down

Captivating story with people and places that can be slightly familiar. It was a real page turner. I kept thinking I would know what was next, then there would be a surprise twist that would make me go aha! . I love McLennan’s style. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I found a few more of her writings on her website Alisonstories.com. Love it!

August 22, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book!

I could not put this book down! The story draws you in the moment you start reading. The author really knows how to develop characters and bring them to life. Her writing is superb – her descriptions of people and places in the book are eloquent, imaginative and raw. The twists and turns of the story were fascinating. She is a gifted and talented writer. I cannot wait to read her next book!

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