As Tem notes in his introduction, the 19 short stories in this strong collection explore “the terrible things we do to ourselves and to each other.” He gets things rolling with the haiku-like “2PM: The Real Estate Agent Arrives,” which contains a bite at the end that is more powerful than had it come after pages of text. Equally subtle is “Saguaro Night,” in which the daughter of an acclaimed landscape artist gradually reveals the backstory to her father’s most famous, and most disturbing, painting. Done in a style the artist called “tormented expressionism,” the canvas depicts rows of blackened saguaro leaning toward a small red-orange one in the background, “their cactus deity.” Readers should be prepared for images of graphic violence in “The Child Killer” and several other entries. If not every story has the impact of “Saguaro Night,” fans of dark fiction and exquisite prose will find plenty to like. (Aug.)
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