Clever, well-paced, laced with humor and insight—damn fine short stories.

SEASONAL WORK

Playful tales of misdeeds great and small from the prolific mystery author.

Lippman fans will be glad to hear that the first two stories in her second collection of short fiction—after Hardly Knew Her (2008)—feature Tess Monaghan, now-retired private investigator and star of a dozen mystery novels. The first, the title story, is about a long con featuring the wise child of a grifter dad; the second is a very Baltimorean story set in a children's bookstore with an ongoing shoplifting problem. The third story features a couple that insiders will recognize as Tess' parents in the years before she was born. Though Judith Monaghan is "The Everyday Housewife," her powers of observation and interest in the lives of others presage her daughter's talents—as one character points out, "It's a thin line between gossip and espionage." The remaining nine stories take on a sparkling array of everyday cheaters, liars, egotists, and sexist pigs. In "Slow Burner," a perfectly pleasant high school teacher "has been spying on [her husband] for so long it's hard to remember what she might know and what she can't know." But as her students point out during their mythology unit, "Hades is a kidnapper, plain and simple. Why should Persephone be punished for eating a few seeds?...To teenagers, the gods are like adults, taking themselves much too seriously, demanding respect they have not earned, changing the rules as it suits them while torturing the puny mortals in their care." Oof. As the author explains in an interesting afterword, the stories—four of which, she proudly notes, do not a include a dead body—were written between 2007 and 2019 and had to be updated slightly to conform to current standards. Sensitivity, however, only goes so far with a crime novelist. When the pandemic comes along in the last story, "Just One More," it only makes murder more acceptable. "Hundreds of people were dying every day. What was one more body on the pile?"

Clever, well-paced, laced with humor and insight—damn fine short stories.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-300003-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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