Book Review : Hilary Davidson - The Black Widow Club (2013)


(also reviewed)

What was new was the computer sreen splattered with blood and splotches of grey matter that I didn't want to get close enough to analyze. I forced my eyes away from the corpse. ''Mom, when you told me on the phone that something had happened to Oscar, was this what you meant?''

Hilary Davidson already garnered praise and popularity for her Lily Moore novels, her travel journalist/sleuth with the worst possible travel agent. What you may not know about her is that she also writes shorts stories that 1) have won awards and contests and 2) are completely different than what she does in long form. In fact, a Davidson short is more suceptible to leave you stunned, giggling and vaguely happy to be still alive. Sinners rejoice, Hilary Davidson's short stories greatest hits are now available in one collection, thanks to the queen of suspense's unwarranted kindness to us plebeians, and it is nothing but an absolute pleasure.

There are only nine stories in the collection, which is considerably less than your usual short story collection, but it doesn't matter because Hilary Davidson doesn't do flash fiction. These stories are all long enough, fleshed out and detailed enough to be subtle and gripping. I am not sure what to tell you regarding which story was the best, because they all were diabolically well-plotted and fun. BEAST was shorter than the other stories, yet it broke with the ongoing themes of THE BLACK WIDOW CLUB and I thought the change of pace. FETISH, maybe the longest story, was probably my favorite piece overall. It's one of the meanest shorts I have read this year. It'll use your own sense of morality to keep you in the dark and hit you where it hurts.

Hilary Davidson is one of the only authors, if not THE only, who can make me shift my perception about a character or a story in the middle of a page, sometimes even in the middle of a sentence. For example in FETISH, the story begins with the description of a dangerously sexy woman and yet, the first thing to come out of the protagonist's mouth is : ''Hey kiddo.'' Davidson made me love the guy instantly. In two words, she established that Paul wasn't prey to his male instinct and had decency. Same thing happened in the title story where I thought the relationship between the main character and her husband was unnaturally spiteful until a simple event completely restructured my perception of what I had already read. Davidson has a keen understanding of narrative structures that WILL remind you of the best television shows you've watched.

''I'm tweaking.'' Her blank look made him snort. ''Meth. I've been up for five days. Ray's pushing three weeks.''

''That's a terrible sin, desecrating your body.'' Her words made him smile and look away. ''My body was desecrated a long time ago.'' 

He stood up again and paced in a circle around the hair. 

''You can't know how happy I was to find something that kept me from sleeping.''

Maybe the glue that makes THE BLACK WIDOW CLUB stick together and add up to more than the sum of its parts is Hilary Davidson's thorough and exhaustive treatment of female identity. It is a very feminine book that treats about female issue and perception of their darkest instinct. It is neither sexist or rabidly feminist. THE BLACK WIDOW CLUB has a spontaneous, well-lived feminity about it and it's difficult to tackle these themes with the gracefulness and candor Hilary Davidson displays. Don't let that cover fool you, it's by far the worst thing about THE BLACK WIDOW CLUB. If you have a pulse and enjoy crime stories you will love this collection.



I'm a pop culture blogger and author living in Montreal, Canada with my better half Josie and my dog Scarlett. I am a proud member of author collective Zelmer Pulp and have about a dozen of short stories published to my resume.

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