Joyce Carol Oates is an unparalleled investigator of human flaws. In these eight stories, she deftly tests the bonds between damaged individuals—a brother and sister, a teacher and student, two strangers on a subway—in the fearless prose for which she’s become so celebrated.

High Crime Area: Tales of Darkness and Dread
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Year: 2014
Pages: 247

In the title story, a white aspiring professor is convinced she is being followed. No need to panic—she has a handgun stowed away in her purse, just in case. But when she turns to confront her black male shadow, the situation isn’t what she expects. In “The Rescuer,” a promising graduate student detours to inner-city Trenton, New Jersey, to save her brother from a downward spiral. But she soon finds out there may be more to his world than to hers. And in “The Last Man of Letters,” the world-renowned author X embarks on a final grand tour of Europe. He has money, fame, but not a whole lot of manners. A little thing like etiquette couldn’t bring a man like X down, could it? In these biting and beautiful pieces, Oates confronts, one by one, the demons within us. Sometimes it’s the human who wins, and sometimes it’s the demon.


Contents

  • The Home at Craigmillnar
  • High
  • Toad-Baby
  • Demon
  • Lorelei
  • The Rescuer
  • The Last Man of Letters
  • High Crime Area

Awards

  • 2015 Best American Mystery Stories: “The Home at Craigmillnar”

Reviews

Donna Seaman, Booklist, February 15, 2014
5 stars
“Oates extends her inquiry into the racial divide and returns to another of her signature settings, Detroit circa 1967, in the exquisitely frank and distressing title story about the fears of a young, white English teacher. Powerhouse Oates brings both exterior and interior worlds into excruciatingly sharp focus, evoking dread, grim exaltation, and the paralysis of prey.”

Publishers Weekly, January 13, 2014, pp. 49-50
4 stars
“Oates is at her best depicting characters who seem perplexed by theit own needs, desires, and obligations, and readers seeking tidy resolutions and clear endings won’t find them in these tales..”

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2014
4 stars
“Oates is at her best here when she’s writing about floundering academics thrust into situations for which they’re hopelessly ill-prepared. Oates’ mastery of imagery and stream of consciousness enhances the gritty settings and the frailties of her grotesque and pitiable subjects.”

Sue Russell, Library Journal, February 15, 2014
4 stars
Among the most compelling of Oates’s many literary personae is the one with a deep-rooted interest in the pathology of criminals and their crimes … These stories take the reader to desolate intersections and grimy tenements that mirror the dark reaches of the human soul.

Eric Karl Anderson, Lonesome Reader, April 11, 2014
4 stars
The eight stories which form the new collection “High Crime Area” from Joyce Carol Oates are daring and provocative … [it] is a seductive read with its entrancing array of voices and innovative forms of narrative. The stories draw us into danger to provide a thrilling read which challenges our assumptions.

Kate Saunders, The Times, December 20, 2014
4 stars
This writer is extraordinary not because she produces such huge amounts (more than 70 books so far), but because what she produces is so consistently good. And short stories show her invention, economy and control at its best.

Rae Padilla Francoeur, Georgetown Record, April 24, 2014
3 stars


Image: The corridors of academe by C.J. Peters


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