The doll-master and other tales of terror / Joyce Carol Oates.
Booklist Reviews 2016 May #1
*Starred Review* In this collection of six previously published stories, Oates has created a book of intense tales filled with unreliable narrators. Using an economy of words to produce an overflow of feelings—in particular, extreme unease and tension—she ropes readers in and takes them on a dark and twisted ride before pulling the rug out from under them, over and over again. Readers may start to see the twists coming, but that is not her purpose, obscuring the denouement. Rather, these stories are all about the anxiety, tension, and mood—and the extremely damaged, unlikable characters within. When a story ends, one is left both gasping for air and rushing to turn the page to begin the next story. The first, "The Doll-Master," may be the most predictable of the bunch, but the creepy feeling it produces lingers, casting an anxious shadow over the entire collection. Stories four and five, "Equatorial" and "Big Mama," build the collection to an intense climax, with "Big Mama" in particular proving that Oates can be the best macabre writer in the world when she wants to be. The final story, "Mystery Inc.," a love letter to crime fiction and bookselling that could be the evil twin of 2014's The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, makes for a fun and unsettling conclusion. This is a collection with wide appeal, especially for fans of compelling and intense psychological suspense as found in the stories of Shirley Jackson or Gillian Flynn. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2016 March #1
Oates (Jack of Spades) convincingly demonstrates her mastery of the macabre with this superlative story collection. Though the titular opening tale sets the creepy tone, narrator Robbie, who starts stealing dolls as an eighth grader, is odd enough that its denouement is less surprising than it could have been. More effective is the Hitchcockian "Equatorial," in which Mrs. Wheeling, her husband's third wife, begins to suspect during an excursion to the Galapagos that her scientist spouse may be trying to clear the decks for the fourth Mrs. Wheeling; Oates deftly manipulates the reader through this novella, in part by doling out key bits of backstory that dramatically shift the narrative kaleidoscope. And she truly hits her stride in the stories rooted in apparent normalcy, as in the George Zimmerman riff "Soldier," and "Big Momma," in which angry, unloved 13-year-old Violet ends up taking a horrific turn from the Jersey suburbs into the Twilight Zone. This devil's half-dozen of dread and suspense is a must read. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Associates. (May)[Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC