If It Bleeds
by King, Stephen

A collection of four novellas includes the title story in which Holly Gibney of the Bill Hodges trilogy and "The Outsider" struggles to face her fears and another possible outsider.

*Starred Review* King received a Bram Stoker Award for his previous collection of novellas, Full Dark No Stars (2010), and here he presents four more original suspenseful and chilling stories. "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" recounts the experiences of a young boy who befriends a reclusive, retired billionaire and introduces him to the wonders of a first generation iPhone with unintended and ominous results. In "Rat," a struggling writer determined to complete his novel holes up in the deep woods of Maine, but things begin to go awry. These two tales are definitive representations of King's accessible writing style, which is filled with nostalgia that makes readers feel good, but which is intertwined with menace that can surge and surprise at any moment. "The Life of Chuck," told in reverse chronological order, is a richly conceived tale of the multitudes of lives within every person. In the title story, "If It Bleeds," King places investigator Holly Gibney from his Bill Hodges novels and The Outsider (2018) on center stage, as she hunts an elusive killer who thrives on the misery and despair of others. This set of novellas is thought-provoking, terrifying, and, at times, outright charming, showcasing King's breadth as a master storyteller.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: King's love of short fiction makes this a powerful addition to his megapopular oeuvre and fans will be on the hunt. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas. The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King's own admission one of his most beloved characters, a "quirky walk-on" who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King's favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won't please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters—and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you've got the general idea. "Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same," King writes, "and once ag ain she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard." In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms—which makes them all the scarier. Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you're new to him. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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