An adequate collection that will have the most appeal for fans of the contributing authors.



An anthology of true-life essays by “mystery writers revealing the mysteries of their lives.”

San Francisco–based screenwriter and playwright Zackheim (The Bone Weaver, 2001, etc.) curates a collection of tales that range from upbeat to depressing. Some of the essays explain in depth how real-life occurrences directly influenced the storylines of the contributors’ published novels; other essays mention such a connection elliptically or in passing. Mystery fans will be familiar with most or all of the contributors, but general readers will find one of the benefits of the anthology to be the discovery of new authors. One of the best-known contributors is Jeffery Deaver. His essay is a straightforward account of how he came to write bestselling mystery fiction despite numerous rejections from publishers and why he needed to internalize a simple lesson from his childhood before success arrived. In conclusion, the author writes, “just as in good detective fiction, the plot twist in which the mystery is solved was right before my eyes the entire time.” The most detailed and creatively constructed essay is Carole Nelson Douglas’ “Godfathers, Nancy Drew, and Cats,” in which she explores her “past as prologue” to her career as a “veteran fiction writer who has wondered from childhood how ordinary people let their lives spiral into unhappiness, even violence and disaster.” Of all the contributors, William Kent Krueger is the most direct at revealing how his real-life episodes influenced his writing. “For readers,” he writes, “stories have the potential to do much more than entertain. They instruct; they enlighten; they encourage; they inspire. For authors, the blessings are much the same.” Throughout, the contributors, which include Hallie Ephron, Martin Limón, Cara Black, Rhys Bowen, Jacqueline Winspear, and Anne Perry, explore a range of difficult topics—e.g., mental health breakdowns, domestic abuse, shattered romance, nightmarish experiences in war zones. The anthology demonstrates both that truth can be stranger than fiction and that truth can also morph into effective fiction.

An adequate collection that will have the most appeal for fans of the contributing authors.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58005-921-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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