The Mysterious Press
The Mysterious Press
The Mysterious Press

Jack of Spades

A Tale of Suspense

by Joyce Carol Oates

In this new literary thriller from Joyce Carol Oates, when a venerated mystery writer is accused of plagiarism by a strange woman from his small New Jersey town, his life—and sanity—begins to unravel.

  • Imprint The Mysterious Press
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date May 10, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2505-7
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $15.00

About The Book

From one of the most highly regarded writers of our generation, Jack of Spades is 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: he has a top agent and publisher in New York, and his twenty-eight mystery novels have sold millions of copies around the world. He also has a loving wife and three grown children and is a well-known philanthropist in his small New Jersey town. But Rush is hiding a dark secret. Under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades,” he pens another string of novels—dark potboilers that are violent, lurid, even masochistic. These are novels that the refined, upstanding Andrew Rush wouldn’t be caught reading, let alone writing. But when one day his daughter comes across a Jack of Spades novel that he has carelessly left out, she 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.


“A writer’s secret pseudonymous identity becomes a conduit for his murderous dark side in Oates’s sleek and suspenseful excursion into the literary macabre . . . Although she nods to a number of Poe’s classic tales—especially ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘William Wilson’—the story’s modem spin is entirely of her own clever invention. Readers are sure to be gripped and unsettled by her depiction of a seemingly mild-mannered character whose psychopathology simmers frighteningly close to the surface.” —Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)

“A mystery writer slowly becomes subsumed by his dark alter ego in Oates’ tale of literary madness . . . With its homages to Poe, from ‘The Black Cat’ to ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ and the horror masters Jack of Spades so admires, this latest unsettling and chilling thriller from Oates does not disappoint.” —Kirkus Reviews

“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.” —Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

“Splendid.” —Bloomberg View

“Few writers better illuminate the mind’s most disturbing corners. Oates tightens her silken noose around our necks with the story of a mainstream mystery writer who secretly writes shocking, violent, explicitly sexual thrillers. This hidden life implodes, and he becomes increasingly unhinged after a bizarre woman sues him, claiming that he steals her ideas—literally, by breaking into her house to pilfer manuscripts.” —Adam Woog, Seattle Times, “The 10 best mysteries of 2015”

“Joyce Carol Oates is a hugely accomplished literary novelist, but she has always delighted in crossing and bending genre lines . . . Jack of Spades is a thriller with hints of horror. It’s a briskly paced, brief book . . . which serves its headlong story well. I read most of it in one sitting.” —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

“Disturbing.” —Allison Chopin, New York Daily News, “10 books for your summer reading list”

“Joyce Carol Oates is known for her psychological thrillers, and she does not disappoint with her latest, Jack of Spades. Similar to one’s need, but inability, to look away from an accident about to happen, readers will find themselves quickly turning pages to find out where the plot leads, despite being a little afraid of finding out . . . Oates creates characters that make you think about the potential madness in others, something that, in the end, turns out to be more than a little scary.” —Amy Bolte, Missourian

“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.” —O Magazine, “The Season’s Best Mysteries & Thrillers’

“Suspenseful, fast-moving.” —Dale Singer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“The literary writer appears to be having a ball, gleefully picking at King and his oeuvre like a scab. But she never stoops to picking on him . . . Her economy of words, her scalpel-like precision, her decision to almost always zig where King would zag, offer illuminating insights on both storytelling and voice.” —Kevin Burton Smith, Mystery Scene

“Playful . . . With Jack of Spades Ms. Oates places her cards on the table and shows us a Royal Straight Flush.” —Three Guys One Book

“A very good read . . . Fans of Edgar Allan Poe are sure to recognize some of his story plots woven through the novel . . . Oates does not let her fans down—and she undoubtedly will pick up new ones with her latest effort.” —Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum, Bookreporter

“Entertaining, page-turning . . . [A] perfect summer read . . . I read almost all of it in one sitting . . . As Jack of Spades barrels to its end, its plot takes many twists I won’t give away.” —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

“Delightful . . . Copious, clever literary allusions—to Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King in particular—play a role.” —Times (UK)

“One of [Oates’s] most accessible novels, whittled down to the sparest narrative bones and stylishly chilling.” —Metroland

“Deliciously twisted.” —Life Sentence

“A great psychological noir novel, which also serves as a homage to Stephen King . . . [A] tour de force . . . This tale of suspense makes for another high-caliber Oatesian outing, displaying flair, noir sophistication, and King-like flourishes.” —Seamus Scanlon, Library Journal (starred review)

“A chilling thriller . . . Gothic in its paranoia, but thoroughly modern in its observations on fame’s destructive powers.” —Bustle, “18 Fantastic Books To Pick From This May”

“A fast-paced read filled with high drama and the expertly-rendered delineation of a writer’s descent into madness . . . A brilliantly enjoyable tribute to the greatest writers of this popular form of the novel.” —Lonesome Reader

“Joyce Carol Oates has done it again. Written a creepy mystery with a few twists and one major revelation that spins the tale into a really nice, satisfying, splashy ending.” —Dunn County News (Wisconsin)


A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Mystery & Thriller for Spring
One of the Seattle Times 10 best mysteries of 2015


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 fury commingled; and again the terrible lifting of the axhead, the dull sheen of the crude ax-blade, and the downward swing of Death once begun unstoppable.