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2010 Stories 212 - 216

Slowed down on the short story reading over the past week or so, but it's going to pick back up.

212. The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle, From The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes  What I liked about this story was the tone: Holmes does not for a minute take the actual case of Mr. Wilson's being taken advantage of by "the Red-Headed League" seriously, and so there's a sort of whimsical note to everything Holmes says throughout the story.  Holmes does, however, realize that Wilson's case may be an indicator that something else is going on, and of course Holmes finds the link. It's a fun story.


And four from STORIES: All-New Tales Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio:

213. Wildfire in Manhattan by Joanne Harris  I can honestly say Joanne Harris is one of those writers I keep meaning to read, but never actually get around to -- I loved the movie version of Chocolat and really intend to read the book one of these days.  This story, which has nothing to do with Chocolat, gave me a good sense of her style and makes me want to read more of her work. This particular piece is about a group of ancient gods (or the modern avatars of same) being hunted through NYC by some shadowy, wolf-like agents of chaos. The story is a little slow to start as it sets the premise up, but it builds tension well.  I liked the narrator's voice and the presentation of these aspects of the gods.

214. Unbelief by Michael Marshall Smith  I honestly wasn't sure what to make of this one at the start.  Told from the POV of a man about to make a hit on a figure we're led to assume is famous and both loved and hated, but about whom we learn precious little else at the outset. The POV character's history and motivations are well defined, but the vagueness of who he was hired to hit, and why, felt less intriguing than annoying for the first half of the story. Once I realized who the intended target was supposed to be, the story clicked for me, and I ended up appreciating the fact that the target's identity is revealed only through off-hand comments between the two characters rather than naming him outright. And for that reason, I will not spoil it here.

215. The Stars Are Falling by Joe R. Lansdale  This is a terrific, moody, very sensory-laden story.  A veteran of WW1 returns to the farm he abandoned in order to cross the border and join the Canadians' efforts in the war. His wife and son are not necessarily happy to see him; in fact they are somewhat shell-shocked at his reappearance, just as the vet is shell-shocked from his own experiences in the war. War-time and home-stead emotions and events dovetail nicely in the end.  This one deserves to be in some end of year "Best Of's."  Lansdale paints a picture in which I could feel the main character's confusion, feel the confusion in the dark of the woods and the rain falling and spattering mud, and could see the stars.

216. Juvenal Nyx by Walter Mosley  Mosley is another author I've been told I really need to read but have not gotten around to. I suppose as I go through another mystery-heavy phase, he might crop up.  While there is a bit of a mystery at the center of this story, it has nothing to do with Mosley's Easy Rawlins character (or any other series, as far as I can tell).  Mosley takes the by-now overworked "romantic vampire" trope and sort of stands it on its ear even while somewhat embracing its conventions.  The title character details his "birth" as a child of the night, but it's the details Mosley focuses on that makes the story stand out from the glut of such. In fact, if Mosley were to write a series with this character, I would eagerly sign on.

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