Saturday, September 10, 2011

four short stories

196. Adam by Jennifer Cotroneo-Mancuso, from Diagonal Proof magazine.    This is a taut psychological thriller told through the eyes of a hysterical woman and then her husband. It's a study in mental breakdown over the loss of a child. I can't describe it in too much detail without giving away the plot twists, but I can say that the author slides well from one POV to another in a way that just heightens the tension rather than disrupting the flow.

197. Ginnifer by Matthew Pearl from the June-Sept 2011 issue of The Strand.    I knew Matthew Pearl by reputation only. Friends have recommended his three period-piece mysteries to me, but I've yet to read them. So when I saw his name on the cover of the June-September 2011 issues of the Strand, I thought it might be a good way to test the waters.  And it was, except that this is no literature-based period piece. No Poe Shadow or Dante Club here. This is a darkly comic (in my opinion) modern day tale of a man who is accused of a heinous crime, and the woman who believes in his self-proclaimed innocence. Pearl plays out the drama (is he really innocent? what will she do once he's free?) at a perfect pace for this kind of story. Waters tested, appetite whetted: I  definitely want to read more Matthew Pearl.

198. The Audience of the Dead by Andrew Lane from the June-Sept 2011 issue of The Strand.    Not every new Holmes story published in the new Strand magazine is a worthy descendant of Doyle's original work. Then again, some of Doyle's later Holmes stories suffer compared to the early works as well. Andrew Lane has written a series of "Young Sherlock Holmes" books that are only now seeing publication here in the States, but this tale is of an adult Holmes and Watson investigating a theater full of dead bodies. Lane keeps Holmes' personality and methods pretty well according to Doyle, down to the Great Detective seeing clues we simple readers don't. It's an interesting tale with a satisfying conclusion.

199. The Second Theft of Alhazred's Manuscript by Bradley H. Sinor, from Historical Lovecraft.  Every now and then I grab this anthology off the shelf and read a story at random. It just so happens that this time it was the Holmes story in the batch. Sinor walks that fine Holmes line: is what the Detective encounters in this story really supernatural, or is there a perfectly mundane explanation hiding underneath? Holmes never quite unveils that what's happening is faked, although he expresses that opinion to Watson. But then again, Holmes' concern here is the theft of a manuscript he's been called in to rescue once before, and not whether said manuscript holds eldritch power or not. Sinor walks the line well and keeps the story interesting without either downplaying the supernatural or calling Holmes out as a fool blind to the forces of the universe. Not easy to do.

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