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Full Dark, No Stars    by Stephen King order for
Full Dark, No Stars
by Stephen King
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

No one pokes a stick into the slumbering darkness within all of us and brings it to vengeful and horrifying life quite like Stephan King does. The fact that he's chosen to explore this theme in four novellas is a bonus - it's a format that I believe showcases King at his best.

First up is 1922, a story that sees Wilfred Leland and greedy wife Arlette suffering through yet another argument over their various land parcels. She wants to sell the whole shebang to a farming conglomerate, then move to Omaha and live the high life. Wilf, a farmer to the core, won't hear of it. It's soon clear that the only way to get the shrewish woman off both his and his teenaged son's backs is to shut her up - permanently. But it doesn't take long for their grisly crime to come back and haunt both of them in horrible ways.

Big Driver is perhaps the most disturbing story in this collection - cozy mystery writer Tess is off to a speaking engagement at a small town Maine library. After the director convinces her to take a shortcut home, debris on the road and no cell service leave Tess stranded. A stranger stops to help and it's soon clear he wants more from Tess than her gratitude. Her brutal violation unleashes a very dark stranger within herself, an angry and tormented woman who will not rest until she's gotten her revenge.

The darkly humorous Fair Extension introduces middle-aged businessman Dave Streeter, who's in the last stages of cancer. Out for a drive one night, he notices a solitary man sitting at a roadside stand. Curious to see what type of snake oil the man is selling, Dave stops and eventually makes a deal with the devil - one with a clever twist.

And in A Good Marriage, you'll meet Darcy and Bobby Anderson, a happy and unassuming couple with two grown kids. When Darcy's late night visit to the garage accidentally unearths her husband's dirty little secret, she realises that to maintain the semblance of her family's ideal life, she must take matters into her own hands.

The stories in King's latest quartet are dark, often gruesome, in-your-face tales that pack a solid, if disturbing wallop. Each tale in Full Dark, No Stars leaves its own singular and unsettling impression and demonstrates that King is still a master at exploring the sinister side of the human psyche.

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