Two stories about the much less amusing private eye Melville Fairr show how completely Rice’s seemingly effortless best work...



In her day (1908–57), Georgiana Craig Rice was known as the doyenne of the comic mystery. She also had a well-earned reputation for opening her novels with baffling puzzles whose solutions she hadn’t yet worked out. Both tendencies are on display in these dozen stories from the author’s last decade. True, they lack the florid inventiveness of her novels; the cast of stock characters—rye-swilling Chicago criminal attorney John J. Malone, his long-suffering secretary Maggie, his bartender Joe the Angel, his friend and nemesis, Homicide Capt. Daniel von Flanagan, and an interchangeable succession of ineffectual clients and sultry blonds with a mysterious interest in the impecunious little lawyer—and their frantic interactions and jokey conversational gambits are as stylized as Kabuki. But Rice has an unexcelled eye for the arresting opening: the lawyer’s date with dazzling Dolly Dove that’s interrupted by the discovery of a corpse; the death of an undertaker under Malone’s nose during a funeral parade; the locked-room killing of a true-crime writer; the murder of a philanthropist in exactly the way Malone had jokingly suggested. Interestingly, the longer stories here are no more complex than the shorter, and it’s two of the shortest—the psychiatric patient whose homicidal nightmares come true in “Beyond the Shadow of a Dream” and the arsenic-laced anecdote “Wry Highball”—that have endured as minor classics.

Two stories about the much less amusing private eye Melville Fairr show how completely Rice’s seemingly effortless best work depended on the shenanigans of the Malone menagerie.

Pub Date: May 30, 2002

ISBN: 1-885941-70-6

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Crippen & Landru

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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