Dec 05, 2016
kosmo - See all 772 of my articles
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of In Sunlight or In Shadow for review purposes.
I’ll read anything with Lawrence Block’s name associated with it, so when I had the chance to receive a copy of an anthology he edited (and contributed to), I jumped at the chance. All of the stories in In Sunlight or In Shadow are based on paintings by Edward Hopper. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly familiar with Hopper’s works, but the book shows a photo of each painting before the relevant story so that you have proper context.
Block corralled a great group of authors to contribute to this book. Block’s a favorite of mine, of course, but Stephen King, Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, and Lee Child are names that immediately jump out at me. I’ve read at least a half dozen books by each of those authors. The others are Megan Abbot, Jill D. Block (Lawrence’s daughter), Robert Olen Butler, Nicholas Christopher, Craig Ferguson (yes, the late-night TV guy), Joe R. Lansdale, Gail Levin, Warren Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Kris Nelscott, Jonathan Santlofer, and Justin Scott.
It’s an interesting mix of stories. There are some that are very dark, and others that are uplifting. Some are set at the time of the painting (1910s to 1950s) while others are set in the modern-day. Many are stories that explain what is occurring in the painting, while others use the painting as a prop, with the characters discussing the painting. One of the stories appears to be a thinly veiled accusation of a real-life crime – after reading it, I found myself using Google to get information about the provenance of certain Hopper works.
I would say that Jill D. Block’s work, The Story of Caroline, a story of a woman’s search for her adoptive parents, is my favorite of the bunch. I generally enjoy crime fiction, but her uplifting story tugs at the heartstrings. My least favorite of the stories is Robert Olen Butler’s Soir Bleu. I’m usually somewhat hesitant to throw shade at a writer, but I’ll make an exception in this case – because I saw an article reviewing In Sunlight or In Shadow which picked Butler’s story as the very best in the anthology. So I’m convinced that it is very good story that just didn’t happen to speak to me.
You may not like all the stories – with seventeen different authors, it’s almost impossible that all would appeal to you – but you’ll probably find a great many that you do enjoy. As I mentioned previously, I’m not even familiar with Hopper’s work, and I greatly enjoyed the book. Other than the Robert Olen Butler story, the other sixteen were roughly split into stories that I found to be excellent and ones that I thought were very good. If you’re a Hopper aficionado, you’ll likely enjoy them even more than I did.
In Sunlight or In Shadow is on sale Tuesday, December 6.
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