Whiteout Conditions By Tariq Shah, 115 pgs.

The website of Chicago TV station WGN has an article with the headline “Where do the Chicago suburbs actually end? It’s complicated.” Whiteout Conditions is set mainly in a town (city?) that is probably technically a Chicago suburb (exurb?), but is very much its own town. (Chicago itself has always seemed to me like a mean small town writ huge.)

The book is about a guy who returns for a funeral, spending most of his time with an old friend with whom he shares complicated feelings. I’m from a small Midwestern city and recognized both of these guys, their conversations and their flare-ups of hostility, as well as the winter weather, which isn’t often the weather in fiction.

Shah keeps the cause of the deceased’s death a secret for awhile. But as I write this, a week before the book’s March 17 release date, the nation has only started to accept the intractability of the coronavirus, and a 115-page work of fiction is going to struggle to gain anyone’s attention, and so I’m going to chance that Shah wouldn’t object to the SPOILER of telling you that the deceased was a teenage kid who was mauled to death by a pit bull—in fact, let’s add some keywords to attract search-engine searches: “books about pit bulls,” “stories about pit bulls”—and if, like me, you’ve ever been attacked in public by an unleashed dog (not a pit bull) and had to make peace with the attack, or if you’ve been the owner of such a dog, Whiteout Conditions gives you something to think about.

(I won’t linger on the dearth of attentive editing/proofing, except to say that we jarringly learn what one of the character’s nickname was in an earlier draft.) –Jim Woster (Two Dollar Radio, twodollarradio.com)