A collection of wonderfully creepy gems in which each story goes its own way, to frightening effect.


Fifteen tales of horror, suspense, and macabre encounters that recount moments when the fantastic finds a crack in our everyday world.

Ford is a prolific writer with a shelf of well-deserved rewards for his novels, but short stories are his sweet spot. Armed with the paranoia of Poe, the psychological terror of Shirley Jackson, and Stephen King’s empathy for everyday people, this latest collection is both subtle and nightmare-inducing, depending on the story. The opener, “The Thousand Eyes,” is a noir-tinged period piece about a mysterious bar, an obsessed painter, and a frightening singer with a “voice of death.” Many of the stories are subdued creature features: “Hibbler’s Minions” is about a flea circus gone awry while “From the Balcony of the Idawolf Arms” features a werewolflike shape-shifter. Finding the minor magic in the everyday world is another thread, but the shifts in style between stories are impressive, from gothic horror in “Inn of the Dreaming Dog” to mythology in “Sisyphus in Elysium” to the long-suppressed grief in the title story. Several of the stories—some of the most experimental and intriguing—find the author narrating his own experiences through fantastical events. In “The Match,” sporadic writing teacher Ford is informed that in order to keep his job, he must fight an angel, as one typically does in academia. Elsewhere, in "Monster Eight," the author’s fictional counterpart has a run-in with the local monster just doing his “monster thing,” and in "The Bookcase Expedition," he witnesses a minor war between fairies and spiders. In "Five-Pointed Spell," the final story and one of the longest, Ford deftly spins a tale that starts with shades of Duel or Mad Max and turns into something that more closely resembles The Blair Witch Project.

A collection of wonderfully creepy gems in which each story goes its own way, to frightening effect.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61873-184-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Small Beer Press

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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

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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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Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.


A young woman finds herself at a Covid-induced crossroads in Picoult’s latest ultratopical novel.

Sotheby’s associate Diana O'Toole, age 29, and her surgical resident boyfriend, Finn, are planning a trip to the Galapagos in March 2020. But as New York City shuts down, Finn is called to do battle against Covid-19 in his hospital’s ICU and ER, while Diana, at his urging, travels to the archipelago alone. She arrives on Isabela Island just as quarantine descends and elects to stay, though her luggage was lost, her hotel is shuttered, and her Spanish is “limited.” What follows is the meticulously researched depiction Picoult readers have come to expect, of the flora and fauna of this island and both its paradisiacal and dangerous aspects. Beautiful lagoons hide riptides, spectacular volcanic vistas conceal deep pits—and penguins bite! A hotel employee known only as Abuela gives Diana shelter at her home. Luckily, Abuela’s grandson Gabriel, a former tour guide, speaks flawless English, as does his troubled daughter, Beatriz, 14, who was attending school off-island when the pandemic forced her back home. Beatriz and Diana bond over their distant and withholding mothers: Diana’s is a world-famous photographer now consigned to a memory care facility with early-onset Alzheimer’s, while Beatriz’s ran off with a somewhat less famous photographer. Despite patchy cellphone signals and Wi-Fi, emails from Finn break through, describing, also in Picoult’s spare-no-detail starkness, the horrors of his long shifts as the virus wreaks its variegated havoc and the cases and death toll mount. Diana is venturing into romantically and literally treacherous waters when Picoult yanks this novel off life-support by resorting to a flagrantly hackneyed plot device. Somehow, though, it works, thanks again to that penchant for grounding every fictional scenario in thoroughly documented fact. Throughout, we are treated to pithy if rather self-evident thematic underscoring, e.g. “You can’t plan your life….Because then you have a plan. Not a life.”

Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984818-41-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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