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A FLASH OF DARKNESS

COLLECTED STORIES OF M.M. DE VOE

Ominous, masterfully conceived psychological fiction.

De Voe’s short story collection features characters in devilish conundrums.

The short fiction collected here offers a series of themes and plot twists that are delightfully odd, unexpected, and borderline macabre. In the subtly effective opener, “Shutter,” a protective ghost perched in a tree observes the park bench interactions between a young struggling female actor and an elder with menacingly predatory intentions. “Tastemakers,” with its embedded satire of artistic communities, depicts grisly performance art set in a museum where crowdsourcing-funded artists synchronize their suicides while “the spectators all gasp.” The theme of family recurs frequently; an old witch in “The Scissors of Hope and Despair” may or may not have dementia, like her cocky granddaughter believes, but a strategic and revealing game of chess offers proof positive. One of the book’s longer tales, “Mom of the Year,” also touches on family bonds when an outspoken, award-winning mother of six has her standards challenged during a live reality TV talk show. The Brooklyn mother featured in “Left Brain” struggles with raising a young son stricken with a condition that limits his communication to numbers. Increasingly panicked, she fears that “his right brain was slowly eating his left brain like a psychopathic sibling jealously encroaching on shared space.” The sheer number of revolving narrators distinguishes “A Rose” from the rest of the collection, with De Voe exercising her creative muscles in this fairy tale gone awry. Closing out the collection is the shortest entry, the bravura “Virgin Flight 244, Chicago to Heathrow,” which, with great economy, manages to convey the horror of a wife giving birth to a demon child while seated in trans-Atlantic coach seats with her husband. As the new dad deals with the devil spawn and its hemorrhaging mother, De Voe’s disarming talents are on full display. Each story demonstrates De Voe’s gift for creating characters and scenarios that are just off the beaten path. Fans of The Twilight Zoneare certain to be mesmerized by this eerie anthology, filled with surreal wonder, sinister scenes, and a cast of eerily memorable characters.

Ominous, masterfully conceived psychological fiction.

Pub Date: April 10, 2023

ISBN: 979-8987926901

Page Count: 253

Publisher: Borda Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2023

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THE GOD OF ENDINGS

A new and contemplative take on the vampire novel.

Following a vampire across more than 200 years, this novel considers “whether this world and life in it is a kindness or an unkindness, a blessing or a curse.”

At the age of 10, Anna faces illness and death daily as an epidemic sweeps through her town. After the deaths of her father and brother, and when she's at her sickest, her grandfather arrives. Just as she’s about to succumb to the illness that killed her whole family, he transforms her into a vampire like himself. When she asks him why he did it, he replies: “This world, my dear child, all of it, right to the very end if there is to be an end, is a gift. But it’s a gift few are strong enough to receive. I made a judgment that you might be among those strong few, that you might be better served on this side of things than the other. I thought you might find some use for the world, and it for you.” The years that follow are difficult and often wrought with loss for Anna. She lives many lives over the centuries and eventually takes on the name Collette LaSange, opening a French preschool in Millstream Hollow, New York. Chapters alternate between Anna’s life beginning in the 1830s and her current life in 1984 as Collette. Notable points of tension arise when Collette tries unsuccessfully to sate her hunger, which is becoming increasingly unbearable, and as her interest in the artistic growth of a student named Leo deepens. Through decadently vivid prose—which could have been streamlined at times—this hefty novel meditates on major themes such as life, love, and death with exceptional acumen. The final questions in the book—“How presumptuous is the gift of life? What arrogance is implicit in the act of love that calls another into existence?”—serve as an anchor to meditations on these themes found throughout.

A new and contemplative take on the vampire novel.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781250856760

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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HIDDEN PICTURES

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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