Old Flames

January 21, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

flamesOld Flames by Jack Ketchum


Another day, another Jack Ketchum novella. Or possibly novel. It’s hard to tell. Ladies’ Night is classified as a novel, at 175 pages, but this one is classified a novella, at 180. Maybe it’s about word count. Or maybe it’s about whatever the publisher wants to call it to justify a given price point.

In Old Flames, we meet Dora, a woman who has poor luck with men. After her current beau jilts her, she has a chance encounter with a friend of hers from high school, who not only reminds her of Jim, her high school sweetheart, but also of an agency who can track down lost connections for a small fee. So does Dora find a way to reconnect with Jim, despite him being married with two children.

I’ve written a lot about Ketchum’s fiction already — brutal, nihilistic, compelling, sometimes hopeful, sometimes not — so I won’t cover that ground again. This novella is right up there with the rest of his fiction, though I will say that Old Flames is another hash mark on the “Hopeless” tally for Ketchum. Despite it moving quickly, some of the character development in the novella feels sudden and rushed.

Mediocre Jack Ketchum is still a notch above other dark fiction out there, so this will still be of interest to fans of the genre, or of the author. It’s actually less graphic than his other work, so I could see it being a good introduction to the author’s style, but at the same time, it won’t prepare them for when they move on to The Girl Next Door. It’s a solid story that reads quickly, but it’s hardly the best (or worst) thing he’s ever written.



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