cover image The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

Joyce Carol Oates, . . Harcourt/Penzler, $24 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101531-3

The words “gothic” and “macabre” rather than “mystery” and “suspense” might better describe the 10 beautifully told stories in this superb collection from the prolific Oates (The Female of the Species ). In the startling opening tale, “Hi! Howya Doin!,” an overly friendly jogger encounters someone with a less rosy outlook on life. In the horrifying “Valentine, July Heat Wave,” an estranged wife finds a very unpleasant surprise in the home she once shared with her academic husband. In the haunting “Feral,” a near-death experience transforms a much-loved only child into something wild and unknowable. The title story concerns a horrific exhibit in the home of an aging coroner in upstate New York (whose behavior is even more troubling). The book's best story, “The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza,” about an aging boxer in a bout that will make or end his career, happens to be the least gruesome. Powerful narratives, a singular imagination and exquisite prose make this a collection to relish. (Aug.)