Irreconcilable Differences

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This collection of original stories from today's most successful, prize-winning writers of crime fiction proves that "irreconcilable differences" can't begin to describe the lethal results of a relationship gone wrong.

For this outstanding anthology, editor Lia Matera challenged a stellar list of contributors including National Book Award Winner Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times best-sellers Edna Buchanan and Jeffery Deaver, and award winners Laurie R. King, Julie Smith, Bill ...

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first Good [ No Hassle 30 Day Returns ] [ Edition: first ] Publisher: HarperCollins Pub Date: 11/3/1999 Binding: Hardcover Pages: 368.

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Overview

This collection of original stories from today's most successful, prize-winning writers of crime fiction proves that "irreconcilable differences" can't begin to describe the lethal results of a relationship gone wrong.

For this outstanding anthology, editor Lia Matera challenged a stellar list of contributors including National Book Award Winner Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times best-sellers Edna Buchanan and Jeffery Deaver, and award winners Laurie R. King, Julie Smith, Bill Pronzini, Margaret Maron, and Marcia Muller to use the phrase "irreconcilable differences" as a springboard for a story. Their responses make for irresistible reading. These twenty concoctions of mystery and suspense move from sharp and probing to humorous and sly, fully evoking the theme of discord most deadly.

Here are the clever twists and chilling turns of breakups, family feuds, broken partnerships, and lovers' quarrels. A couple takes witty revenge on their honeymooning exes in Judith Kelman's "Just Desserts." Gillian Roberts's "Heart Break" explores the dark side of staying together. In Sarah Lovett's "Buried Treasure," a hint-dropping stranger changes the life of an imperiled widow, while Jan Burke shows how a Good Samaritan can save a bad marriage in "An Unsuspected Condition of the Heart."

As this acclaimed cast of authors probes the minefield of intimacy, devotion, and trust upon which human lives are built, Irreconcilable Differences explodes with heart-stopping events.

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Editorial Reviews

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A stellar cast of authors probes a minefield of trust and betrayal between spouses, neighbors, partners and friends, in 20 chilling stories that explode with murder and mayhem.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although this anthology contains 20 original short stories, most of which are very good, it's worth the asking price just for Joyce Carol Oates's entry, "Tusk." There, a teenage boy, whose home life is tormented, brings a knife to school; as the day passes, his anger builds toward a terrible climax. Other especially noteworthy tales come from Laurie King, Bill Pronzini, Marcia Muller, Edna Buchanan, Jeffery Deaver, Jan Burke, Amanda Cross and Gillian Roberts. King's story of a paleta man, an ice cream vendor who walks the streets of a barrio neighborhood and knows the secrets of its inhabitants, is masterly. Burke, meanwhile, evokes the spirit of Georgette Heyer's Regency novels in her vibrant tale of murderous goings-on at a 19th-century stately home. Editors and readers who are tired of the current proliferation of memoirs may applaud "The Perfect Revenge" that occurs in Cross's story. Pronzini, an expert at concise but suspenseful stories, tells the riveting tale of a husband and wife who keep escalating their quarrels during a series of hot summer nights. On the lighter side, former trauma nurse Eileen Dreyer has some farcical "Fun with Forensics." Despite the title, no story here is a conventional tale of divorce or domestic argument. Instead, here are satisfyingly twisted plots based on the differences that can spark violence between spouses, neighbors, partners and even old friends. Dec. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060192259
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/1/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Read an Excerpt

As the knife fitted into Tusk's hand, an idea fitted into his head.
Look at me! God damn here I am.
Exactly what he'd do, he'd make up when he got to the place it would be done in. Like a quick cut in a movie, you get to the place where something's going to happen. Or when he saw the person, or persons, it would be done to. Like jazz, what's it called, you make it up at the piano not toiling away for hours practicing scales and arpeggios and shitty Czerny exercises like he'd been made to do by his dad in the grim dead days before he was Tusk—improvisation it was called.
That's what Tusk was famous for, or would be famous for: improvisation. Forever afterward at East Park they'd be saying of Tusk, That Tusk! Man, he's one cool dude! And over in the high school they'd be saying it, too.
Exactly why they'd be saying this, shaking their heads in that way meaning no shit, blinking and staring at each other lost in wonderment, Tusk didn't yet know. But he would.
~
It was his dad's knife. Out of his dad's desk drawer. A souvenir from 'Nam. You had to wonder how many gooks the knife had killed, right? Tusk grinned contemplating such freakiness. They did the DNA and it's more blood types than they can figure. Wei-ird!
Probably it was going to happen at school, or after school. He was headed for school. His mom calling anxiously after him but he hadn't heard, on his way out fast like his new Nikes were carrying him. He'd been waking through the night charged with electricity like sex and it felt good. Liking how it was just an ordinary weekday, a Tuesday. Couldn't remember the calendar month—April? May? It was all a background blur. It was just the pretextfor what came next. On the TV news, that was what they'd be saying. Just an ordinary weekday, a Tuesday. At East Park Junior High in the small suburban community of Sheridan Heights. Thirteen-year-old Tusk Landrau is a ninth grader here. Tusk hoped they wouldn't get into the honors-student shit, anything to do with old Roland. Anyway he wasn't going to plan much. He had faith the knife would guide him. When he'd been Roland junior for twelve fucking years he'd planned every fucking thing ahead of time. Laid out school clothes the night before, even socks. Socks! Homework had to be perfect. Brushing his teeth, never less than ten vigorous brushings to each part of the mouth. Until the gums bled. Going down a flight of stairs he was compelled to hit each stair at the identical spot. Setting up the chess-board to play with his friend Darian (when they'd been friends), he'd been compelled to set his pieces up from the back row forward as his dad had always done, always king and queen first. And his game planned as far as he could see it, until mist obscured his vision. Even wiping his tender ass with a prescribed length of toilet paper one two three four five rhythmic swipes. But no more! Now he was Tusk and Tusk moved in one direction only: fast-forward. He'd left every dork friend (like Darian) behind. His brain worked in quick leaps. Like Terminator III. Rapid fire and stop. Rapid fire and stop. Reload and pop! and stop. His brain was wired. His brain was fried. He didn't have to smoke dope or pop pills (though sometimes for the hell of it Tusk did) to get to that place. His head was quick starts and stops and reloads and pops and bam! bam! bam! and stop. Tusk was a new master of the video arcade. The older guys admired him. One cool dude! That strung-out look, dilated eyes. Certain of the girls thought him sexy-looking. Wild. Hours rushed by in this state. It was an OK state. If he stepped sideways out of it he'd feel like shit enveloped his entire soul so why? One direction only: fast-forward. Bam! bam! bam! and blip! on the screen. And the sweet explosion that follows.
Now you see Tusk, now you don't.
God damn here I AM.
~
Weird that a souvenir from 'Nam had been manufactured in Taiwan. Stainless steel with a seven-inch blade and an aluminum grip of some strange burnished metal or possibly mineral with a greenish glow. Tusk told kids his old man had fought in Vietnam but in fact his old man had been in intelligence probably just sitting on his ass until it was time to fly home again. He'd bought the knife probably from some dumb fuck who'd actually "seen action." Tusk tested the blade by running it along his throat and wasn't sure it was as sharp as it needed to be. You get your chance you don't want to fuck up, right? There was a fancy knife sharpener in the kitchen but better not. If his mom discovered him? A weekday morning? On his way to school? Why, Roland, what's that in your hand? (Jesus, maybe he'd stick her!)
So no way, Tusk's out of here.
Dad's knife shoved in his backpack with his homework.
~
If this was a movie they'd pick up next on Tusk pushing into school like any other morning. A pack of round-head kids, muffin-face kids, kids looking more grade school than junior high. Tusk is the barracuda here. Not tall but slouched, lean like a knife blade, fawn-colored hair in flamey wings lifting from his face and that glisten in his skin like he's got a fever. And shadowy hawk eyes that are greeny glow-in-the-dark like the Assassin in his new favorite video game XXX-RATED.



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Table of Contents

Introduction
Tusk 1
The Perfect Revenge 25
Eye to Eye 41
Stutter Step 61
Miami Heat 79
Wishful Thinking 99
Up at the Riverside 109
Paleta Man 131
Buried Treasure 149
An Unsuspected Condition of the Heart 161
Legacy 175
Fresh Paint 213
Just Desserts 229
Half of Something 251
Heart Break 265
All's Well that Ends 281
Love thy Neighbor 295
Showdown at the Terminal Oasis 311
Fun with Forensics 323
If it Can't be True 339
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable anthology

    This short story collection centers on the impact of separations and divorce on the participants including extended family members. However, the twenty tales share a dark look at IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES as the audience is treated to situations that do not end as peacefully as our current legal system expects. <P>Lia Matera has put together a remarkable anthology that has several excellent stories, some very good tales, and no poor entry. The cross-genre contributors are a modern day who¿s who with such noted authors like Oates, Cross, Deaver, Lutz, Buchanan, and Muller, etc. None of the writers are lightweights as they all hold their own with the heavyweights. Anyone who enjoyed the War of the Roses will fully relish each tale that paints a very dismal look at broken relationships. <P>Harriet Klausner

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