03/12/2012 10:14 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Book We're Talking About This Week: 'Threats' By Amelia Gray

"Threats" by Amelia Gray
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, $14.00
Published on February 28, 2012

What is it about?
When we meet David, he's just lost his job as a dentist and his wife, Franny, has died mysteriously. These tragedies further complicate his already confused disposition. Gray is able to capture the haze of his grief with surreal language and brief, poignant chapters.

Her artful storytelling borders on the avant garde; the reader experiences memories of David's wife in sharp, sporadic spurts.

Matters get worse for David when he begins to stumble upon disturbing and darkly comical threats tucked away in the nooks and crannies of his home. Addressed to Franny, they may help him solve the riddle of her death:


Why are we talking about it?
We're all about stories that successfully bend genres, and we feel that this book blends crime with experimental fiction in a very innovative way. The earthy cover caught our eye, but what's between the pages is praiseworthy.

We agree with Publisher's Weekly that, "What would have seemed gimmicky in the hands of a less skilled writer becomes a cunning whodunit with Gray."

Who wrote it?
"Threats" is Amelia Gray's third book and first novel. She's been awarded the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize for her short story collections, "AM/PM" and "Museum of the Weird." The book tour for "AM/PM" was funded completely by Kickstarter. She hails from both Tucson, Arizona and Austin, Texas, and currently lives in Los Angeles.

Who will read it?
Fans of mood pieces, surrealist art, quirky discussions of tragedy, dark humor or detective stories

What's it similar to?
Ben Marcus' "The Flame Alphabet" for its focus on grief; David Lynch's "Blue Velvet" for its dark and experimental nature

What do the reviews say?
Kirkus: "...feels like an old-fashioned gothic tale as rewritten by David Lynch or William S. Burroughs…"

NPR: "If you read for story, "Threats" will disappoint. Very little "happens" outside of the ramblings of David's paranoid mind. But if you read for tone and atmosphere, or just that prickly feeling that runs up your spine when writing is so hauntingly grim that a ghost may have written it, Gray might be your new favorite find."

Impress your friends
While certain threats like cyberbullying are punishable by law in the United States, the consequences aren't as harsh as in Brazil, where it "is punishable by a fine or three months to one year in prison, as described in the Brazilian Penal Code, article 147."

Opening line
"The tape on the package was striped with waxed string."

Noteworthy passage
"The years had made Franny literal. It got to the point that when she found something funny, she would say so without laughing. David didn't mind it. He appreciated a literal woman.

Some winter, years before, they had watched a man struggle up the icy hill in front of their home. He plunged silver picks into the ice like an Alpine climber. The man slipped and howled as he fell, digging the pick into his own hand. He slid down the ice in a bloodied mass. Franny smiled, watching. 'That was funny,' she said."