In the interests of fair disclosure I have to admit it that I not only respect BJ Bourg but I also consider him a good friend. While I got to know him because we were on several lists together, I also saw how he interacted with others. BJ is one of those rare folks that has a wealth of knowledge and isn’t afraid to share his knowledge with others. As will soon come out publicly, we are working on a couple of projects together. I received and read his book long before the other things came up. Like in all my reviews, the final judgment as to the quality of my reviews as well as the books themselves is up to you, the reader.
Reviewing an anthology or a collection is tough. Unlike a novel where one sets up the premise of the book and then comments on how the book works, an anthology or collection can’t be reviewed that way. Instead, the reviewer has to look for not only an overall theme of the work but two or three stories that illustrate that point.
“Absent The Soul” is a collection of short stories revolving around the theme of murder. Told through various character viewpoints, the stories often reflect the repercussions of murder on the families involved. It is hard to pick out any as being better than the rest as they are all very good. However, here are some selections which clearly are based on my own particular tastes.
“A Picture Perfect Murder” works off the idea of a cheating spouse as does many a country western song, movie of the week, or true crime book. Here murder is inspired by the cheating spouse and the story gives rise to the real question as to who is the real victim? The same premise or idea is also skillfully worked a few pages later in the story, “Hell Hath No Fury.”
It isn’t just spouses that serve as impetus to these stories. Children do too and one of the more powerful examples can be found in “My Daughter’s Keeper.” Sometimes speaking for the dead crosses boundaries with huge life changing implications for all. At nearly 40 pages in length, this story builds with relentlessness until that final shocking twist.
Another of the longer stories is “A Badge Like Mine.” A cynical internal affairs investigator finds out that a simple abuse case can lead to murder.
The final story packs a punch unlike any of the others. “Heartbeat To Hell” slides over the genre line from suspenseful mystery to horror for this reader. A category that I don’t read but before I knew where the story was going, I was two pages from the end. I couldn’t stop there and I promise this story will leave you shaking.
So, there you have it. My selections from a highly entertaining collection that stretches boundaries and view points. While murder is the common theme in each story, the repercussions of murder are a constant background component. From shattered families to honest investigator cops who may be driven to cross the line into vigilantism, to the cynical cop burned out cases ago and everything in-between, the repercussions are huge. In each story character development is highly effective as is the premise and plot which as a result brings the story alive for the reader. You can’t ask for much more and that makes this book good stuff.
ABSENT THE SOUL: A Collection Of Short Mysteries
By B. J. Bourg
Large Trade Paperback
Kevin Tipple © 2006