A subtly ominous story about voyeurism and the danger of losing yourself in someone else.

THE WOMAN IN THE PURPLE SKIRT

One woman obsessively tracks the movements of another.

The narrator of Japanese novelist Imamura’s deliciously creepy English-language debut likes to watch a woman in her neighborhood known as “the Woman in the Purple Skirt.” The Woman in the Purple Skirt doesn’t do anything particularly interesting. She sits on a bench in the park; she goes to the bakery; she is intermittently employed. But there’s something about her that makes it “impossible not to pay attention,” as the narrator explains. “Nobody could ignore her.” The same isn’t true of the narrator, who refers to herself as “the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan.” Gradually, as Imamura’s taut narrative unfolds, we realize just how much of her own life the narrator is willing to give up or, indeed, destroy for the sake of her obsession. She arranges for the Woman in the Purple Skirt to get a job at the hotel where she works cleaning rooms. They’ve never actually spoken, but our narrator imagines she’ll now get the chance to introduce herself. Instead, the Woman in the Purple Skirt quickly becomes popular with the cliquey other workers, and the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan remains as invisible as ever. Meanwhile, she keeps following the Woman in the Purple Skirt: listening in on her conversations, tracking her purchases, and waiting outside her apartment. Imamura’s pacing is as deft and quick as the best thrillers, but her prose is also understated and quietly subtle. Occasionally the dialogue can feel somewhat canned: “She’s quick about her work,” one of the other hotel workers says, and the response is, “Uh-huh. She sure is.” Still, this is a minor complaint of a novel that is, overall, a resounding success.

A subtly ominous story about voyeurism and the danger of losing yourself in someone else.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313602-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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This complicated gothic thriller of dueling spouses and homicidal writers is cleverly plotted and neatly tied up.

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS

An unhappy British couple attempt to rekindle the magic with a weekend trip to a remote spot in Scotland.

How is she tricking me? Feeney, the author of Sometimes I Lie (2017) and His and Hers (2020), has trained her readers to start asking this question immediately with her puzzle-box narratives. Well, you won't find out here. Only the basics: Amelia's won a weekend getaway in an office raffle, and as the novel opens, she and her screenwriter husband, Adam, who suffers from face blindness, along with their dog, Bob, are miserably making their way through a snowstorm to a destination in the Scottish Highlands which is no Airbnb Superhost, that's for sure. A freezing cold, barely converted church with many locked rooms and malfunctioning electricity, the property also features a mysterious caretaker who has left firewood and a nice note but seems to be spying through the window. Both Adam and Amelia seem to be considering this weekend the occasion for ending the marriage by any means necessary—then Bob disappears. The narrative goes back and forth with first-person chapters by Amelia and Adam interleaved with a series of letters written to Adam on their anniversary through the years and keyed to the traditional gifts: paper, cotton, wood, leather, etc. There's also a rock and a scissors, referring to the children's game of the book title, which the couple use to make everyday decisions like "Should we stay together?" Offstage is the famous writer Henry Winter, whose novels Adam has made his fortune adapting; through several author-characters, Feeney weaves in sometimes-grim observations about the literary life. On meeting a sourpuss cashier at the rural grocery store: "The woman wore her bitterness like a badge; the kind of person who writes one-star book reviews."

This complicated gothic thriller of dueling spouses and homicidal writers is cleverly plotted and neatly tied up.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26610-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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