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TELL TALE

STORIES

Those remembering Saturday Evening Post’s short stories will enjoy this collection.

Archer (Cometh the Hour, 2016, etc.) shifts from the Clifton Chronicles series to spin 13 pieces of thoroughly readable short fiction.

In “Who Killed the Mayor,” Archer opens the book with a young Neapolitan detective assigned to a small town in Campania to investigate a murder of a man whose presence had been poisoning the idyllic village; the story quickly becomes a farce and concludes with a sharp left turn. Archer’s theme changes in “A Gentleman and a Scholar”; in one of two stories set in the United States, a retiring professor—one of the first women to teach at Yale—gives a final lecture on Shakespeare, becoming a study in grace. Archer prefers old-fashioned themes, morality tales or stories in which immorality has its own rewards, but mostly stories that arrive at conclusions rather than fade into a contemporary fog. His dialogue is seamless, and even in short form, Archer has a gift for memorable characters. In the first story, Lt. Antonio Rossetti, the Neapolitan detective, is a picture of self-regard whose sophistication masks ingenuousness. Later, in “The Senior Vice President,” Arthur Dunbar becomes a thorough portrait of a decent man, albeit an unimaginative one, warped into a more nuanced being by a cold, faceless corporation. In that story Archer uses his setting to build atmosphere as “the roads became lanes, and the lanes, paths, until he finally saw a turreted castle standing foursquare on a hill in the distance.” Don’t, however, examine the foreshadowing too closely as that story approaches its O. Henry–esque conclusion. “A Good Toss to Lose” has a melancholy, somewhat Rashomon flair. “The Road to Damascus” lets Archer explore apparent opposites, the spiritual and the ironic. And in a bit of whimsy, Archer gives readers the work of choosing a conclusion in “The Holiday of a Lifetime.”

Those remembering Saturday Evening Post’s short stories will enjoy this collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-06692-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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