book reviews by Althea

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror – Joyce Carol Oates

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The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror
The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**** The Doll-Master
(Previously read in “The Doll Collection.” Re-read.)
While, in general, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with little boys playing with dolls, there’s certainly something quite, quite wrong with this specific boy playing with dolls.

**** Soldier
Powerful, disturbing story. This isn’t what I expected from “Tales of Terror” but it’s quite horrific. Oates brings us into the head of a man who’s something of a cross between Bernie Goetz and George Zimmerman – and it’s not a pleasant place to be.

**** Gun Accident: An Investigation
A woman thinks back on the ‘gun accident’ incident that traumatized her as a teenager.
The story feels believable to the point where I would think that it was true.
Again, the ‘terror’ here is the sort that people really truly have to face: mundane, banal, and perhaps all the more horrifying for it.
The tension is masterfully raised as the details of what happened that one afternoon are revealed.

*** Equatorial
This piece was as masterfully written as the preceding stories – but I so hated the main character that if I knew her, I’d seriously want to kill her myself. This feeling undercut the effectiveness, for me: I feel that the author wanted us to feel equally ambivalent about both her and her husband, and I didn’t.
A middle-aged woman on a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos with her husband has become suspicious that he actually wants to kill her. Are her fears justified, or is it all paranoia that will lead her to make rash choices? The ending leaves it up to the reader to decide what might happen – with several dire possibilities on the table.

**** Big Momma
This one’s a more traditional horror story. A lonely young girl is having a hard time adjusting to life in a new town, at a new school – until one of her classmates befriends her and brings her into her family’s warm embrace. But is this a family one really wants to be embraced by?
There have been mysterious disappearances around town – of pets, and small children…

***** Mystery, Inc.
From a purely literary standpoint, this might not be the best story in this brief but excellent collection – but it was my favorite. A crime story set amongst crime stories, it’s a twisty tale of malfeasance between booksellers – where the competition might get literally cut-throat.
Although hardly ‘cozy,’ this is a much more ‘fun’ story than the others in the collection.
In addition to the plot, what really made it for me was the vividness of the details and the clarity of the setting – you come away from this story feeling that you actually remember being in this bookstore.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Mysterious Press for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

View all my reviews


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