DEADLY HUNGER by Joe L. Hensley


and Other Tales
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Like his creator, Hensley's series hero Don Robak has been a lawyer and a judge, and it's judges rather than detectives who dot the landscape of these 18 stories, most dating from the 1980s. In fact, the stories that most resemble whodunits—“A Lot of Sense," "On the Rocks," "Decision," and "Trial," along with "Argent Blood," whose supernatural tinge reflects the author's SF roots—are among the least successful here. More often, though, Hensley's heroes, trapped in circumstances they can't escape, give themselves over to counterplots ("Widow," "Deadly Hunger," "Watcher," "The Calculator," "Shut the Final Door," "The Retiree") sometimes freelance, sometimes—the difference hardly matters—sanctioned by the law, and at this they excel. Hensley's gift of setting the emotional scene in a few swift strokes, which gives his expositions an economy almost poetic, lifts the best of these pieces—especially "Pain Doctor," a haunting reminiscence of military justice—above his novels (Robak's Witch, 1997, etc.). It's obvious from the hints "The Home" drops early on that its nursing-home setting is too disquietingly well-run to be on the level, but few readers will guess just where the tale will end up. Even a gimmicky anecdote like "Truly Yours, John R. Jacks" is so surely sketched that its dialogue will linger to disturb your dreams after the predictable ending.

Hensley's stories don't always fulfill the promise of their setup; but even when they don't, he makes you care about his crabbed judge-avengers anyway. The theater may be miniature, but the characters are never smaller than life.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7862-3141-6
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Five Star
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001


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