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Monday, May 4, 2015

Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates

Mysterious Press, 208 pages, $24 (release date - 5/5/15)

It is difficult to review a book you can’t really talk about without tripping over a spoiler with every sentence. 

Joyce Carol Oates has built a refined and dark novel about murder, conscience, and insanity. Oates builds the story up slowly and meticulously. She leaves hints of things to come like leaves blown into a house by the wind. The closer you get to the front door, the more leaves you discover. But, at first, it’s just the tiniest of leaves that has blown the farthest in, so little you might not notice it at first. You might not wonder how it got into your house or whether it has playfellows who have also dampened your hallway. Finally you see more and more leaves, and before you know it, it’s obvious someone has opened the door and let the leaves in. But you live alone and there should be no one there but you.

Wait, that’s crazy talk.


Joyce Carol Oates used to write her dark, psychologically twisted novels under the pen name of Rosamond Smith. The irony of Oates using her own name for “Jack of Spades” should not be lost on readers of this book.

I will say this about the plot: The narrator is a successful writer of mysteries. He plots his books the way a general plots his battles.

And I will say this about “Jack of Spades”: It’s stylish, macabre, and compelling. Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe are mentioned frequently. They are good company for this wicked tale.

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