cover image Extenuating Circumstances: Stories of Crime and Suspense

Extenuating Circumstances: Stories of Crime and Suspense

Joyce Carol Oates. Mysterious, $30 (528p) ISBN 978-1-61316-315-3

Nothing is as it first appears to be, and nothing can be taken for granted, in each of the 24 vividly told stories in this outstanding collection from Oates (Night, Neon: Tales of Mystery and Suspense). Highlights include “The Revenge of the Foot,” in which a college student carries out a cruelly satisfying vendetta, and “Queen of the Night,” a hypnotically seductive tale about a 50-year-old woman’s divorce and its unexpected and profoundly disturbing aftermath. “Ladies and Gentlemen” offers a decidedly creepy take on vacation cruises; “Family” presents a terrifying view of a dystopian future; and “The Undesirable Table” surprises when it takes a decisive step into metafiction. “The Girl Who Was to Die” makes the unsettling observation, “A life consists of many facts, implacable facts, you do not want to know.” Oates typically leads her readers to focus on one plot element, while subtly rearranging the emotional landscape, leaving them in exhilaratingly uncharted territory. Spanning the first 30 years of Oates’s writing career, these stories aren’t for the faint of heart, but they’re a joy for anyone who appreciates the work of a master storyteller. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Assoc. (May)