The Devil You Knowby Poppy Z. Brite
In her third short story collection, Poppy Z. Brite finds fresh ways of exploring territory both familiar and strange. Here you'll meet the Devil and his giant cat last seen in the pages of Bulgakov, the gourmand coroner of New Orleans,/i>
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In her first new collection in a couple of years, Poppy Z. Brites 'The Devil you Know' focuses many of its stories in and around her beloved New Orleans and often travels in the restaurant world (her husband is a chef). Less gothic than her previous works, one might even consider 'The Devil You Know' somewhat whimsical in certain spots. She certainly is prone to using humor and irony more so than in the past. But don't think that Brite has lost her edge. While she continues to explore new avenues she can still hit you right between the head although she does so with a skillful, subtle hand in this collection of 13 stories. Several of the tales feature Poppy's alter ego, Coroner Dr. Brite such as the black humor tale 'Marisol' about a restaurant critic who writes an unflattering review of a restaurant and then promptly disappears as the chef introduces his newest dish. The 'Ocean' brazenly shows the high cost of fame in a story about a dysfunctional, drug addicted rock band, being fed upon by their fans. 'System Freeze' seems a bit out of place with the other stories in the book, being as much a Sci-fi story as anything else. After a fatal fall from a mountain during a climb, a woman finds she's been given a second chance at life by the mysterious Agent Fine, as long as she completes the new AI program that she is working on. The story is supposed to be a Matrix-esque type tale and is short but effective 'Burn Baby Burn' will have people thinking of Stephen King's 'Firestarter' with its tragic tale of pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (of Hellboy fame) and the destruction she causes to friends and family...not to mention her entire neighborhood when her powers go out of control. Liz finds her only place of comfort and safety is at the governments Bureau of Paranormal Research---with the other freaks. My favorite story was 'Lantern Marsh' as it evoked the feelings of youth when our own little worlds and suburbs were filled with mystery and enchantment. We firmly believed that the big old house down on the corner was home to a mad scientist. Set again in the Deep South, three young friends frequent a local swamp where odd lights are seen to float and dance about. Noel especially us drawn to the area over and over, even after he's warned to stay out by the man who owns part of the land it rests on. Years later, Noel returns home from college to find that Mr. Prudhomme now owns all of the land and plans to fill in the swamp for development. Noel knows he'll have to do something drastic to save the swamp, and whatever it is that lives there. This diverse collection of short tales shows Poppy's development and comfort with various forms and settings as well as her enormous skill as a storyteller. A must have for her fans and a great place to start for new Brite readers!