Reviews of Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates

Jack of Spades

A Tale of Suspense

by Joyce Carol Oates

Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates X
Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2015, 208 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2016, 240 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

An exquisite, psychologically complex thriller about the opposing forces within the mind of one ambitious writer and the line between genius and madness.

Andrew J. Rush has achieved the kind of critical and commercial success most authors only dream about: his twenty-eight mystery novels have sold millions of copies in nearly thirty countries, and he has a top agent and publisher in New York. He also has a loving wife, three grown children, and is a well-regarded philanthropist in his small New Jersey town.

But Rush is hiding a dark secret. Under the pseudonym "Jack of Spades," he writes another string of novels - dark potboilers that are violent, lurid, even masochistic. These are novels that the refined, upstanding Andrew Rush wouldn't be seen reading, let alone writing. Until one day, his daughter comes across a Jack of Spades novel that he has carelessly left out and begins to ask questions. Meanwhile, Rush receives a court summons in the mail explaining that a local woman has accused him of plagiarizing her own self-published fiction. Rush's reputation, career, and family life all come under threat - and unbidden, in the back of his mind, the Jack of Spades starts thinking ever more evil thoughts.

1   The Ax

Out of the air, the ax. Somehow there was an ax and it rose and fell in a wild swath aimed at my head even as I tried to rise from my squatting position and lost my balance desperate to escape as my legs faltered beneath me and there came a hoarse pleading voice—"No! No please! No"—(was this my own choked voice, unrecognizable?)—as the ax-blade crashed and sank into the splintering desk beside my head missing my head by inches; by which time I'd fallen heavily onto the floor, a hard unyielding floor beneath the frayed Oriental carpet. I was scrambling to right myself, grabbing for the ax, desperate to seize the ax, in the blindness of desperation my hands flailing, and the voice (my own? my assailant's?) high-pitched and hardly human-sounding—"No! Nooo"—a fleeting glimpse of the assailant's stubby fingers and dead-white ropey-muscled arms inside the flimsy sleeves of nightwear, and a grunting cry as of triumph and ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Reading (enjoying) Oates’ outstanding first person story about a famous author’s descent into madness made me wonder if there is such a thing as a bildungsroman for alter egos. A kind of coming of age tale about a person’s internal demon that spends a lifetime as a (mostly) harmless, toothless, nascent being that suddenly blossoms into full adulthood. What a delicious – to us horror fans – idea. I wish I had thought of it. Thankfully I didn’t have to. Oates thought of it first. And Jack of Spades is wonderful. Understated, but infinitely more powerful for it...continued

Full Review (747 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Media Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Just when you think you’ve got her all figured out, Joyce Carol Oates sneaks up behind and confounds you yet again. She does it with a wicked flourish in Jack of Spades.

O, The Oprah Magazine
Oates’s latest suspense tale follows the psychic takeover of Andrew J. Rush . . . by the secret persona he uses to pen lurid genre novels. For added fun, Oates garnishes this machismo-laden struggle with a leavening pinch of one of her favorite feminist topics: witchcraft.

The Seattle Times
Oates is smooth—so smooth that readers barely notice how she tightens her silken noose of a plot around their throats.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Suspenseful, fast-moving.

Tampa Bay Times
Entertaining, page-turning . . . [A] perfect summer read.

Library Journal
Starred Review. As this tour de force reveals, Oates is a master of bleak literary fiction and its (sometimes) poor relation, crime/noir fiction.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Sleek and suspenseful ... Readers are sure to be gripped and unsettled by [Oates's] depiction of a seemingly mild-mannered character whose psychopathology simmers frighteningly close to the surface.

Kirkus Reviews
With its homages to Poe ... and the horror masters Jack of Spades so admires, this latest unsettling and chilling thriller from Oates does not disappoint.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Oh the Horror of It All! - Stephen King on Writing What You Know in Thrillers

Roller CoasterThe consensus across a wide swath of authors and writing teachers is "write what you know." This advice may be even more important when writing a horror story. Sure, horror stories characteristically feature things that are not known, not normal, unfamiliar in the extreme. That's why they exist. People like to be scared by things out of the ordinary. But we can only be scared within the context of what is familiar; by the juxtaposition of what we know and what we don't know. A roller coaster ride is only scary because we know the height of the creaking scaffold, the speed at which the rickety, flimsy little car is hurtling your fragile body through space, and the imagined splat of hitting the ground after brakes fail and the car ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Joyce Carol Oates

If you liked Jack of Spades, try these:

  • The Innocent jacket

    The Innocent

    by Harlan Coben

    Published 2006

    About this book

    More by this author

    A twisting, turning, emotionally charged story, and a compelling tale of the choices we make and the repercussions that never leave us.

  • The Rule of Four jacket

    The Rule of Four

    by Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason

    Published 2005

    About this book

    More by this author

    An ivy league murder, a mysterious coded manuscript and the secrets of a Renaissance prince collide memorably in this debut novel, that weaves together suspense and scholarship, high art and unimaginable treachery.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Facemaker
    The Facemaker
    by Lindsey Fitzharris
    The summer of 1914 saw the beginning of World War I, the bloody conflict known as the 'war to end ...
  • Book Jacket: How to Read Now
    How to Read Now
    by Elaine Castillo
    Toni Morrison once wrote, 'My project rises from delight, not disappointment.' This remark appeared ...
  • Book Jacket: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
    Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    It's been more than 20 years since Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay won ...
  • Book Jacket: Cult Classic
    Cult Classic
    by Sloane Crosley
    At a trendy Chinese restaurant in downtown Manhattan, Lola, the protagonist of Sloane Crosley's ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Some of It Was Real
    by Nan Fischer

    A psychic on the verge of stardom and a cynical journalist are brought together by secrets that threaten to tear them apart.

  • Book Jacket

    Dirt Creek
    by Hayley Scrivenor

    "A heart-wrenching mystery, Scrivenor's remarkable sense of place brings Dirt Creek to life. A stellar debut."
    —Jane Harper,

Who Said...

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

N I, ands, O B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.