THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME
By Holly Goddard Jones (Touchstone, 372 pages, $24.99) Pub. date:Feb. 12
When hard-living barfly Ronnie goes missing in a small Kentucky town, her English-teacher sister Susanna instigates a search. Meanwhile, bullied middle-schooler Emily discovers a body in the woods but can’t bring herself to tell anyone. And Wyatt, a lonely bachelor and lifer factory worker, has dark anxieties of his own.
On the surface, this is a standard suspense novel. But Jones is a master of character development — a quality often lacking in the genre — and the real reward of her debut novel is not the mystery’s resolution, but the soul-searing honesty with which she paints her characters’ secret, unfulfilled dreams, the alienating effects of petty prejudice, and the horrifying cost of everyday, casual cruelty
KRISTIN TILLOTSON, arts and culture writer
By Joyce Carol Oates (The Mysterious Press, 279 pages, $24)
The prolific, the maddening, the indomitable, the downright genius Joyce Carol Oates has written scores of Great American Novels and scores of so-so ones, most of them bloodstained Gothic mysteries or romances. A work of art one moment, a trashy thriller the next — it’s Oates’ way, and any critic who still objects at this point in her long writing career doesn’t really get her, or the American reading public. Oates’ latest, “Daddy Love,” falls somewhere between those two poles. It’s a creepy thriller, dashed off in that maddening italics-loving way Oates has, but it’s also a sophisticated examination of the sometimes irreversible damage an evil person can do to many good people. The title character is a pedophile and serial killer who manages to charm and bamboozle most people even as he parades his victims right under their eyes. In 2006, he kidnaps a 5-year-old boy from the parking lot of a Michigan shopping mall, nearly killing the child’s mother in the process. Over the next five years, he tortures and brainwashes the child into obeying and revering him as “Daddy Love.” It’s amazing, almost nausea-invoking, how deeply and believably Oates bores into the psyche of this beyond-horrible man, as well as into the troubled, tortured but never quite conquered inner life of the child, and those of his heartbroken, horrified parents. This is a brutal, believable book you’ll read in one goosebump-raising session, but will think about for a long time afterward.
PAMELA MILLER, night metro editor