Captive Spirit

Anna Windsor, Ballantine, $7.99 mass market (416p) ISBN 978-0-345-51389-2
Windsor's fourth Dark Crescent Sisterhood novel (after 2008's Bound by Light) is dark and sexy but painfully slow. Bela Argos is the only surviving member of a triad of sibyls, warrior women bound to protect humanity from supernatural threats. She's in the midst of working with a new group of sibyls when they come across a group of tiger demons attacking NYPD cop Duncan Sharpe. Infected with demonic energies and the soul of a friend who's wanted for murder, Duncan is quickly taken into custody by Bela and her team. The lonely sibyl and the cursed cop discover a bittersweet attraction that is the dim highlight of a tale filled with bland dialogue ("Do you know people who do believe in drawing power from perverted rituals?") and bogged down by team dynamics melodrama and an unsubtle murder plot. (Dec.) H Patricia Highsmith: Selected Novels and Short Stories Patricia Highsmith Norton, $29.95 (736p) ISBN 978-0-393-08013-1 As Highsmith biographer Joan Schenkar notes in her introduction to this stellar compendium, "In Highsmith country, good intentions corrupt naturally and automatically, guilt often afflicts the innocent... and life is a suffocating trap from which even her most accomplished escape artists cannot find a graceful exit." This holds true both for the volume's two early novels—1950's acclaimed Strangers on a Train, the basis for the Hitchcock film, and 1952's The Price of Salt, written under the pseudonym Claire Morgan—and 13 short stories, composed between 1939 and 1973. In Strangers, Highsmith takes a disarmingly yet disturbing simple premise—two strangers meet and end up "exchanging" murders—and transforms it into a brutal tour de force of double crosses, doubled identities, and blurred lines between guilt and innocence. Salt, published three years before Lolita, shares the same sexual undercurrent as Nabokov's novel, with the addition of incest and a lesbian love affair, all taboo subjects in 1950s America. The short stories range in tone from the truly unsettling ("A Mighty Nice Man"; "Oona, the Jolly Cave Woman") to the biting ("The Baby Spoon"; "Not One of Us"). While Highsmith (1921–1995) may be best known for The Talented Mr. Ripley, this collection is proof positive that her savagely sedate prose expands far beyond her hero-villain Tom Ripley. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/18/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-345-51678-7
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