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In this first collection of 12 stories from Goldman (Big Chocolate Cookies, 1988), melodrama--but of a subtle sort--prevails. Most of the pieces are set in Cape Cod: the explicit violence is often used O. Henry fashion to close off stories with a twist. In the title story, a taut psychological thriller, Aunt Leora is shot and killed; Uncle Myron soon finds himself depicted in the papers as a ""socialite doctor""; and then the local community, to the young narrator's chagrin, suspects him of the murder. Even the narrator's father collaborates, and finally broken, Uncle Myron kills himself. Years later, the real murderer confesses, and the force of the story comes from the way the narrator observes his father in the wake of this tragedy. Several of the stories use such violence, sometimes not so delicately: in ""A Marriage Kind of Secret,"" a house-robber witnesses a husband murder his wife, whereupon the house-robber approaches the husband--again a suspect--for blackmail. The multiple points-of-view save the story from pulpy sentimentality. ""Dog People"" offers a man obsessed with Cape Cod dogs running loose; he creates trouble time after time, makes enemies, and eventually gets his own when a pack of huskies tears him to shreds--at which point his wife savagely takes to crashing dogs with her car. ""Yellow Jackets,"" about a man attacked by bees, brings Hitchcock's The Birds to mind, although here the subtlety lies in an effective balance between realism and paranoia. ""Way to the Dump"" concerns an urbanite who retires to the Cape and meets his death because ""a stranger with a gun decided when he was to die."" The best of these, some originally in The Atlantic and Missouri Review, are vivid renditions of violence escalating out of control, while others, implausible, belong to TV. The collection is the first winner of TriQuarterly's William Goyen Prize for Fiction.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Another Chicago Press