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Small Kingdoms
and Other Stories
by Charlaine Harris
Subterranean Press, $40.00 ltd ed, 129 pp
Published: May 2019

Here’s a lovely dark gem from the truly versatile Ms. Harris; she of Sookie Stackhouse, True Blood fame.  A set of four short stories concerning one Anne DeWitt, the principal of a small high school in N. Carolina.

In a previous life, Anne was an instructor in an elite school for, shall we say…people who needed to know how to survive – anything.  Her school was more than tough, it could often be deadly.  When a well-connected student died, Anne was forcibly retired and she now regards Travis High School as her personal demesne.  Anne doesn’t seem to be a sociopath, exactly…but she definitely doesn’t have a conscience that bothers her.  Her only goals now are the successes of the school; in whatever form they might take.  She is there to succor and support troubled students; if they have something significant to contribute to the school’s reputation.  And sometimes she has to take somewhat drastic measures to ensure that reputation remains shining.

She discovers, to her surprise, that one of the coaches, Holt Halsey, was also retired from a similar training camp.  She doesn’t care nor does she ask why; but she finds herself grateful for a like-minded person to assist her with some of the more... ticklish… situations; like abusive parents or manipulative students.

All four little stories are well-tied together and very tightly written.  Watching Anne doesn’t exactly inspire the reader with a familiar warmth but more like a jaw-agape fascination with her style and ruthlessness.  Even her somewhat-personal relationship with Holt has her trademark severity.  But you gotta admire her results.

I’m not sure if Anne and Holt could carry a longer novel; I think Ms. Harris has nailed exactly where they fit. And I, for one, don’t really need more; this was delightfully dark and satisfying.  ~~ Catherine Book

For other titles by Charlaine Harris click here

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