Insidiously absorbing, like quicksand.

THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED

STORIES

Twelve gruesome, trenchant, and darkly winking stories set in modern-day Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Belgium.

One of the great advantages of genre fiction is its ability to use metaphor and distortion to explore realities that may otherwise feel too large or terrible to confront head-on. Enríquez, a journalist who grew up in Buenos Aires during Argentina's Dirty War—a trauma that echoes across these stories—is a pioneer of Argentinian horror and Spanish-language weird fiction, warping familiar settings (city parks, an office building, a stretch of neighborhood street) by wefting in the uncanny, supernatural, or monstrously human. Drawing on real places and events and spinning them out in fantastical ways, she disinters the darkness thrumming under the smooth, bureaucratized surface of urban life, exposing powerlessness, inequity, abuse, and erasure. Colonial Catholicism, pop culture, grotesquerie, and local legends intertwine in images of rotting flesh, altars that conceal their true nature, and ritual magic while themes of loss, fate, mental illness, state violence, fear and disdain for the other, and familial obligation—both the abnegation and upholding thereof—run throughout. In "Angelita Unearthed," a young woman lives with an unexpected burden of inherited grief. "Rambla Triste" introduces us to a woman visiting old friends in Barcelona who is soon confronted by a potent and inescapable reminder of the neighborhood's tragic, buried—and questionably authentic—past. In one firecracker, "Our Lady of the Quarry," a volatile mix of teenage vanity, jealousy, and rage leads to a summoning of dark powers and disproportionate revenge. And in the creepy and desolating "Kids Who Come Back," the lost, sold, and rejected children of Buenos Aires begin to return, sparking dubious joy out of even more dubious grief and exposing an entire populace steeped in guilt but determined to reject its culpability. As entertaining as it is affecting and channeled into English with almost clairvoyant percipience by translator McDowell, this is one not to be slept on for enthusiasts of weird fiction and literary horror and of writers like Samanta Schweblin, Amber Sparks, Ayse Papatya Bucak, and Carmen Maria Machado. An atmospheric assemblage of cunning and cutting Argentine gothic tales.

Insidiously absorbing, like quicksand.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more