Texas author James Hynes earns a perfect 4.0 grade-point average for this trio of deliciously creepy novellas in which the ivory tower is infiltrated by the rules of fair play.
Academic satire blends brilliantly with Victorian-era sensibility in "Queen of the Jungle," in which a loyal cat tries repeatedly to alert her mistress, a rising scholar, to her husband's philandering. In the riveting "Casting the Runes," an opera-singing widow helps a young historian outwit an evil senior colleague in order to save her fledgling career—and her life. The third tale, "99," is set in an English country village where an insufferably pompous theoretical anthropologist embarks on what turns out to be a bizarre and, alas, permanent, foray into field research.
Hynes's writing is diamond-sharp, revealing his characters' souls as surely as a Judgment Day angel. This is a must-read if you want to retrieve that crawly-awful-but-give-me-more feeling you had as a kid listening to ghost stories around a campfire. (Picador USA, $24)