Elegantly written tales laced with melancholy and mischief.

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THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY AND OTHER STORIES

This volume of diverse short stories offers an exploration of memory and age.

Subtle surprises abound in Maher’s (Heaven, Indiana, 2019, etc.) stylish collection. The opening tale, “A Real Prince,” introduces Yanka, a young girl who lives at an “outpost” and is ordered to do chores by her “keepers.” Due to her “obvious deficits,” the narrative reveals it is “irregular” that she has been allowed to live. She finds pleasure in folktales and retreats into her imagination, but when soldiers come to lodge at the outpost, she believes she has encountered a real prince. “Livia’s Daddy Comes Home From the War” continues the theme of youthful innocence, as the scene of a father returning from combat is recollected from the naïve perspective of a child. In “Vitae,” an academic plans on writing her magnum opus after being handed a severance package but finds herself working in a pizza shop and making an unusual deal with an armed robber. In “Dancing in the Dark,” a couple who have long fallen out of love are trapped in a dark elevator. The collection then turns to issues faced by older protagonists. The heartbreakingly moving “Turn, Turn, Turn” sees the world through the fog of dementia, where memory and understanding appear and recede without control. “Answering” is a whimsical but telling tale about a man named Howard whose vital organs take it upon themselves to call him on the phone to tell him how they feel. And the title story introduces a great-grandmother who hops on her great-granddaughter’s bicycle to evoke past memories and prove that she can still ride.

Maher’s writing has striking scope and breathtaking versatility. The diction of juvenile characters such as Livia, who struggles to recognize her father returning from war, is thoroughly convincing: “I’m membering hard now looking at his back but I can’t member about this man. I member a man in France who sended me shoes but now I can’t member what he’s sposed to look like.” At the opposite end of the age spectrum, the author effortlessly captures the ebbing tide of memory in “Turn, Turn, Turn”: “Sitting in my chair. Anna—that’s it, the name of the woman…my wife…she read to me about there being a time for everything. A time to sow, a time to die, and…something about stones.” These are poignant, wistful stories, but they are also carefully counterbalanced with Maher’s signature deadpan wit. In “Dancing in the Dark,” Claire, now desperately irritated by the foibles of her former partner, muses: “Victor. What a perfect name. Victor. A man who always has to have his way.” In addition, the author has the skill to draw from readers a childish snigger, as when Howard is bewildered by his body parts calling him on the phone: “Enough was enough, with his heart, his liver, his prostate (named Dick, for Chrissake) and his lungs all nagging him.” This is a prize collection that examines each stage of human life—how memories are lost and won; their value; and their weight.

Elegantly written tales laced with melancholy and mischief.  

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 118

Publisher: Dog Hollow Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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