A wonderfully imaginative but undercooked set of tales that falls short of its potential.



Braum’s third collection of short stories offers tales of magical realism.

The characters in these stories have relatable desires, but they have supernatural forces working against them, often in the periphery. In “The Monkey Coat,” June has had bad luck since David, the father of their daughter, Ivy, left unexpectedly. Her fortunes get worse when she finds a family heirloom in a storage shed: a coat made of monkey’s fur. After she starts wearing it, her relationships with others take a bad turn and she eventually goes missing—leaving the coat, and perhaps a curse, for Ivy. In “Rebbe Yetse’s Shadow,” a young man trying to straighten out his life faces a choice offered by two ghosts. In “Cloudland Earthbound,” a man battles the government and other mysterious powers as he tries to preserve a nightclub in Brisbane, Australia. In the opener, “How To Stay Afloat When Drowning,” a man looking for direction becomes intrigued by a woman who may actually be a sea creature. The premises are creative, with the characters usually facing strange choices in unusual circumstances. However, they often feel as if there’s something missing. In “Between Our Earth and Their Moon,” for instance, a big source of tension is a man named Grant Donovan, who’s supposed to be the heavy of the piece, but readers never get a clear sense of what’s motivating his actions. Similarly, Nate, the narrator of the story, is driven by a previous relationship with someone named Alexandra, but the story never reveals enough about her to make that relationship important to the readers. There are also frequent scenes in which the setting isn’t firmly established before the action starts, as in “Tommy’s Shadow,” when Marco and his friend Richie talk about taking a fateful trip to an asylum. The conversation prods Marco to get into his car, but it makes for an awkward scene because readers don’t know where the characters were when they started.

A wonderfully imaginative but undercooked set of tales that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59021-583-8

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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