Adam Ross arrived on the literary scene last summer with his debut novel Mr. Peanut, a book that received nearly unanimous rave reviews. Ross returns with a stellar collection of intriguingly dark—and emotionally heavy—stories in his new collection, Ladies and Gentlemen.

What is most compelling about Ross’ writing is how much detail he incorporates into his stories; the reader comes to know so much about his characters so quickly that we feel fully committed to their subsequent exploits. In the action-riddled “When in Rome,” a powerhouse lawyer aims to make amends with his drug-addicted younger brother, only to truly test the limits of brotherhood when they become involved in a violent mugging. In “In the Suicide Room,” four college students break into a dorm room where a former student had hanged herself, only to witness a semester’s prank turn deadly among them. And in “Middleman,” a child actor tests the boundaries of his relationship with his best friend’s older sister as he coaches her through the underbelly of New York City’s acting world.

Ross layers both tension and action within each story, delving deeply into his characters’ neuroses and finishing each story profoundly with an intense climax. Whether he takes on the voice of a young, lonely male professor or that of a woman contemplating an affair (the only female protagonist in this collection), each persona is fraught with concerns, curiosity and complexities. A finely balanced composite of humor and cynicism, Ladies and Gentlemen delivers compelling portraits of misunderstandings matched by good intentions.

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