Two sharp, distinctive, and complementary clusters of stories.

BLOOD BUSINESS

CRIME STORIES FROM THIS WORLD AND BEYOND

Editors Acevedo (University of Doom, 2017, etc.) and Viola (Blackstar, 2015, etc.) offer an anthology of noirish tales exploring the dark recesses of both real and supernatural worlds.

In Mark Stevens’ “Bone on Wood,” a preacher who makes house calls to parishioners is revealed as someone who may not be the best man to lead his congregation. Seedy characters populate the collection’s first half, and they’re often depicted as overtly unsavory. One example is the shiftless, drug-dealing Roach in Paul Goat Allen’s “Slug,” who wallows in his excesses. But although these tales are steeped in the gloomy shadows of noir, the anthology’s second half consists of otherworldly stories that often playfully twist the genre’s trademarks. Conventional private eye protagonists, for example, take on rather unconventional cases. In Alyssa Wong’s “A Clamor of Bones,” private investigator An Mei, who can speak to the deceased, needs help from a dead man who’s in pieces, while Devin in Betsy Dornbusch’s “A Rose by Any Other Name” searches for a thief of magic. Patrick Berry’s gleefully bizarre “Divided They Fall” is set in the world of mathematics (with characters named after numbers, gathering at a bar called The Denominator), but its base plot is about a gumshoe hunting a murderer. Throughout, the tales feature catchy dialogue: in Gary Jonas’ “An Officer and a Hitman,” Jenny, back from shopping, tells her killer boyfriend, “I got us some bullets and burritos”; and apparently immortal Pagey professes, “I gotta say, Juma, I’m feeling pretty damn good for a guy who got his brains blown out today” in Viola’s “Outsorcery.” Alvaro Zinos-Amaro’s somber “Morphing” goes in a grimmer, more surreal direction as it follows Cadmus, who’s simply trying to eliminate his rodent problem by using scores of ball pythons, and then his senses gradually disappear. Sean Eads closes the book with “The Ash of the Phoenix,” a poignant memorial to the late Edward Bryant, whose stories open both sections and to whom the book is dedicated.

Two sharp, distinctive, and complementary clusters of stories.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 167

Publisher: Hex Publishers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

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

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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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