From the massive archive ….
Reviewing anthologies and collections is always tough. A novel can lag in spots providing an uneven and yet enjoyable read. That same effect can happen in an anthology or collection where not every story is going to work well for a particular person. Then there is the fact that space limitations often prevent the reviewer from ever going into any depth on all the stories. These situations and others make reviewing such books problematic.
At the same time, readers are asking more and more for anthologies and collections. Subsequently, the last couple of years there has been a surge in publication of anthologies and collections. Most collections and anthologies pass pass right on by due to time constraints. However, when this was made available for review by Stephen D. Rogers, it seemed like one that should be a good book.
My expectations were met with a few personal favorites being:
“C.O.D.” points out that damaging a mailbox is both a federal crime and a personal offense with repercussions for all in the area.
“Fill It with the Cheapest” isn’t just about the gas, the road trip, or the unnamed driver in a story that isn’t clear until the very end.
Twists are guaranteed in this book and that certainly is also the case in “Last Call.” Training the new employee can come back to get you in not so obvious ways.
“One-Eyed Jacks” blends a unique drinking game, several friends with secrets, and a need for final justice.
Justice along with making things right are the twin themes of “Smoking Gun” where a mother simply has no more choices.
While the New England settings of these tales is often vague or not defined at all, meaning the tales could be located anywhere, the sense of desperation comes through clearly in each one. Whether told from the perspective of the good cop, the bad cop, the petty thief, the hard working parent, or the many other character choices the author uses in each story, the sense of immense desperation comes through in every single case. Often the reader is left with the feeling that characters involved never had a chance because everything always had been and always would be stacked against him or her.
While bodies and crimes abound in the collection, that sense of desperation makes this a good book that is not easy reading. These are stories that nestle under your skin like chiggers and don’t go away easily. The fact that they linger is a basic part of what makes a good writer and a good book.
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2010, 2011, 2013, 2021