Cynicism and cheekiness abound in brief but memorable stories.

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WITHOUT EXPIRATION

A PERSONAL ANTHOLOGY

Flawed, despondent characters show a surprising wit and humanity in a collection of 12 tales, most of them previously published.

Two lovers are lying together in this book’s opening story, “Bermuda Triangle.” Their mutual fondness is evident, but it’s clear they aren’t likely to divorce their spouses. This is the attitude that characters in this collection adopt, simply accepting their reality, however imperfect it is. In “Left To Soak,” for example, Helen’s 46-year union with her shiftless husband, Hank, has involved endless days of washing the dishes alone. As she returns home from her three-day hospital stay, she unhappily anticipates the stack awaiting her. Hincy saturates the pages in sardonicism, primarily aimed at marriage. In the gloomy but superlative “A Study in Discontinuity,” geologist Edward had been having an affair with a student when his wife, Christa, was in a debilitating accident. She winds up comatose but periodically awakens over the course of years to berate Edward mercilessly. Nevertheless, there’s a fair amount of wit and satire in this new book by the author of A Fire for Christmas (2016). The comedic highlight is “Amen,” which parodies religion, primarily Catholicism. But it’s a lighthearted tale without spite: This religion’s God, who narrates, causes some trouble by inadvertently passing misinformation to a priest whimsically named Poopé Hal. Hincy’s taut prose makes the entire collection a quick read but still fills the stories with indelible passages. In “A Thousand Counted and Unrepentant Debts,” life coach Bill blatantly describes himself as “not a man of my word; I’m a man of words, none of which I’m particularly committed to.” Similarly, “A Study in Discontinuity” is rife with often amusing footnotes that are considerably more revealing than the narrative itself. The book strikes a chord with characters whose defects make them simultaneously believable and with descriptions of moments involving a loved one’s death, either its prolonged aftermath or its inevitability.

Cynicism and cheekiness abound in brief but memorable stories. (about the author)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73275-790-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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