Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Report: Deadly Housewives

As it turned out, I wasn't far from blogland after all.

Now, about this paperback cover. The white picket fence. The four women. And that title: Deadly Housewives. All a little familiar, isn't it?

I picked up this bargain book at Borders the same day I purchased Julie & Julia and Second Shift. Funny how that feminist theme snuck its way into all of my picks. But on to the review.

Blatantly cashing in on the popularity of the TV show "Desperate Housewives," the Deadly Housewives short story collection features women who have moved beyond desperate into the more disturbing realm of, well, deadly. I think just about every story centers around a housewife murdering someone. Some of the stories are funny, others are just downright dark. Similarly, some were cheesy while others boasted more layers. All in all, it was the kind of book I was embarrassed to be reading. (Which might make you wonder why I'm broadcasting it to the world here. But as I often say, this blog is dedicated to reporting an accurate cross section of all my intellectual and artistic experiences, however good or bad).

That's not to say that I wasn't entertained by this murderous missive.

The story that intrigued me the most was "Next-Door Collector" by Elizabeth Massie. Its heroine is Anthea, a stay-at-home mom and artist who likes to be alone. The drama begins when a new neighbor, Lisa, moves into the house next store with her forty or so dogs and cats. As messy as Anthea is pristine and as sociable as Anthea is aloof, Lisa takes every opportunity to invite Anthea into her unkempt and fur ball-ridden home, cheerfully explaining that her pets are like the children she could never have. But Anthea, put off by Lisa's slovenliness and forward nature, politely declines, insisting that she needs time to work on her paintings. Meanwhile, Anthea notices that Lisa often ventures out to her yard in her bathrobe past midnight to haul a veritable forest of plastic storage bins into her basement. Although troubled, Anthea seems content to satiate her curiosity by spying. The story most likely would have ended here had Anthea's only son not taken a shine to Lisa and her menagerie. He sneaks over along with the other neighborhood children to play with Lisa's pets, much to Anthea's horror. She forbids him to return, her anxiety ignited when she hears that her son's two best friends - twin brothers - are missing. Convinced that Lisa and her ominous boxes are somehow to blame, Anthea creeps into Lisa's basement one night. As predicted, Lisa is there in her bathrobe, handling the boxes. Her movements are punctuated by crying that seems to be coming from beneath the floor. Sure that's she's hearing the pleas of the twins and countless other kidnapped children, Anthea bludgeons Lisa, killing her. The deed done, Anthea peers into one of the boxes and finds - dogs. Piles and piles of dead dogs awaiting burial. Then Anthea returns home and begins painting a picture, entirely in black, in a frenzy. In the morning her husband sees her and says, "You've killed another neighbor, haven't you?" And that's when we realize that the "next-door collector" isn't Lisa, a mere lonely woman with too many pets, but Anthea, a paranoid serial killer who's murdered neighbors in various cities, forcing her family to move time and time again. (The twins, by the way, resurface quickly, having run away.)

Creepy, huh?

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