A collection of unpredictable postmodern jests with more than a little pathos underneath the levity.

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A collage of surrealistic short fictions that range from playful one-liners to Bukowski-tinged ruminations on life and death.

Ridge offers a new collection of stories, reminiscences, fragments, and fables that are firmly in his wheelhouse of finding whimsical humor in the everyday world. It opens with a series of interconnected stories that mostly follow the musings of a jaded, heavy-drinking refugee from Kentucky as he bombs around Los Angeles on his motorcycle. Ridge also occasionally touches upon unusual real-life characters, penning a somber tribute to the late musician Elliot Smith and a melancholy portrait of an aged Babe Ruth, among others. The clever duet of "Noir" and "The Second Detective" offers a minimystery, about a private eye looking for a missing girl, replete with the genre's tropes. Most of the stories are extremely short and meticulously minimalist, but Ridge devotes more real estate to the longest story, "Hey, It's America!" involving one man's determination to throw a quirky festival starring Clint Eastwood. Next, we get a big batch of abrupt but ambitiously experimental stories. "Three Prayers for Artists" offers eccentric good wishes for Subway sandwich artists, con artists, and conceptual artists. Most seem like flash fiction, staccato bursts of scenes such as "On Acid," which reads in its entirety, "I glance at our guru’s finger as he’s pointing at the moon, but then I realize it’s his middle finger pointed at a riot cop and it’s the middle of the afternoon.” The penultimate set of stories starting with "22nd-Century Man" purports to turn some chatbots loose to answer the questions posed in Padgett Powell's novel in questions, The Interrogative Mood (2009). Finally, Ridge finishes with an acid series of stories that follow around Death as the Grim Reaper grapples with anxiety, work stress, and human resources during a well-earned vacay in LA.

A collection of unpredictable postmodern jests with more than a little pathos underneath the levity.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-946448-56-9

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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