Mini-Review: Thumprint: A Story, Joe Hill (2012)

November 17th, 2014 12:39 pm by Kelly Garbato

Cliffhanger ending is cliffhangery.

four out of five stars

You received a two-hundred-dollar-a-month bonus for every month you spent in the combat zone, and a part of her had relished the fact that her own life was valued so cheap. Mal would not have expected more.

But it didn’t occur to her, when she first learned she was going to Iraq, that they paid you that money for more than just the risk to your own life. It wasn’t a question of what could happen to you, but also a matter of what you might be asked to do to others. […]

Two hundred dollars a month was what it cost to make a torturer out of her.

After her tour in Iraq, PFC Mallory Grennan returned to her childhood home in Hammett, New York – newly empty since the death of her father, also a war veteran, just ten hours before she set foot back on US soil. Whereas her father had saved lives as a medic, Mal denigrated them: you wouldn’t know it from the photographs, but she was part of the naked pyramid fiasco at Abu Ghraib. And that appears to be the least of it: as a cop in the army, she regularly humiliated and assaulted suspected insurgents.

Now her past has followed her home, in the form of mysterious thumbprints, blank ink standing out starkly against white paper, left in her mailbox, under her door, on her windshield. Mal’s wronged so many people, both in the Middle East and right here at home; which one of them hates her so much that he wishes her dead?

“Thumbprint” is another wonderfully creepy story from Joe Hill. The Iraqi war looms large, becoming a character of its own, and Hill teases out the disparate effects of trauma on those forced to enact and witness it (and, sometimes, those who joined up for the sheer enjoyment of it).

The story ends rather suddenly with an ominous cliffhanger ending that’s all the more frustrating for its unexpectedness: it comes at just 67% of the e-book. I know I should anticipate that a large chunk of short stories will be teasers for the author’s full-length works, but these sudden endings still catch me off guard every. single. time. (That said, if you haven’t yet read NOS4A2 – do it! It was one of my favorite new releases of 2013!)

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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