cover image Give Me Your Heart: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

Give Me Your Heart: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

Joyce Carol Oates, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Penzler, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-547-38546-4

The heart is a lonely hunter, and it also is vengeful, untrusting, and cruel, as Oates (The Female of the Species) proves in this fine collection of 10 tightly focused tales about love and its aftermath. In the epistolary title story, a young woman writing after many years to her alleged abuser, a biblical scholar, inspires sympathy at first, but a very different emotion by the end. Hidden snapshots propel a man into obsession about his wife's past in "The First Husband." The ambiguous memories of a woman with a history of drug and mental problems build to a crescendo in "Smother." A 13-year-old girl finds her resolve when she's the only female with a group of drunken, threatening men in "Strip Poker." A naïve college student's attempt to help a nine-year-old girl goes horribly wrong in "Bleeed." Each story shows the power of Oates's never-ending clear, clean prose. (Jan.)