Death Among Us: Short Story Anthology

Disclaimer: I am a part of this project.

Now that that’s out of the way, Death Among Usis a collection of short stories that are all somehow rooted in the murder mystery genre. The authors weren’t tethered by any other stipulation, aside from a request to not be gratuitous in our use of violence. The resulting anthology includes cross genre stories that venture into the historical, science fiction, and supernatural, in addition to contemporary stories of greed, revenge, and the most sordid of our shared human condition.

As it should be with any anthology, I owed it to the other writers to give their works a spin. I started at the beginning, and read the award-winning The Rose Slayer by Stephen Bentley, and the conclusion hit home for me in a way I can only describe as delightful. From there I branched out, helped myself to a sampling, and found that I’m in the company of quality.

The science fiction take on the theme, as crafted by Greg Alldredge, offered a bit of something different. As a lover of science fiction, I’m pleased with what Alldredge brings to the table.

Red Solo Cup, by Kelly Artieri stood out, as she is excellent at creating characters that come to life, a quality I find difficult to achieve in the short story medium.

Robbie Cheadle’s historical murder mystery, Justice is Never Served, is filled with a prose style that is so wonderfully crafted, I read it twice to let her lines settle in.

Michael Spinelli takes you to the desert, and leaves you there to die. His story, No Man’s Land, establishes the killer as a monster of sorts, using this language to distance killer from “normal” people, but the twist left me with the conclusion that in the grand scheme of things, we’re not so different from those we try to label as the horrific other.

The work of L. Lee Kane is gritty fun. The murders were not the main event for me, as casual violence exists throughout her narratives, and shows a world where such violence is all too normal.

The Thoughts of Emily Morales in Old Age, by Kay Castaneda is a page long train of thought that moved me in ways beyond that than I had initially expected. The quick piece is to be savored and thought upon.

The Neighbours, by Aly Locatelli is her writing debut, and a solid one at that. Her work as a book reviewer serves as a solid foundation for her own narratives. She knows what the reader wants, and how to get you there.

The posthumous works of ‘G’ left me intrigued about the mind of the author. I was especially interested in/entertained by the religious questions of Next.

 

I kind of fell into this project. I responded to an invitation on a message board, and ended up in the company of some impressive authors. This cast of international talent isn’t a group to whom I owe the above praise, and I will refrain from reviewing it on any platform where it may be deemed unprofessional. I just wanted to use my space here to say I’m touched to be among such company, and have been entertained by their work. You can find the Death Among Us here!

 

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Dark Places: Book Review

Dark Places is a dark novel. I came for the bleak style-backed up with substance I’ve come to expect from Gillian Flynn, and I was entertained. Libby Day survives the traumatic murder of her mother and sisters by her brother, and half of our time is spent with her present-day narrative, twenty plus years after the killings. Every other chapter bounces in time between Libby’s modern misanthropy to the day her family was violently torn from the world. Old assumptions are reexamined in the pursuit of money, and Libby is pressured into questioning her memory.

A group of people obsessed with obscure murder cases is willing to fund the down and out Libby Day. The group is driven by an agenda that rejects the narrative that Ben Day murdered his family. They offer to pay Libby for each figure from the past she can track down and interview. She confronts the past in a way she hasn’t considered since the event. Her coping mechanisms are hot garbage, and the pity driven donations have dried up. Libby is desperate for money, and accepts the most fruitful gaslighting campaign I’ve ever read. None of the characters are particularly likable, but those characters make up my kind of book.

As Libby closes in on the truth she finds herself running for her life. She opts not to leave the past alone, and discovers it’s an all-consuming void that doesn’t allow for growth or the healing properties of closure. Libby is damaged, and I find joy in her  narrative.

The novel concludes in a manner that left me conflicted. Without giving too much away, it felt like a plethora of coincidence packed into the smallest possible window. The pieces come together in a way that supports the ending, but I’m still frustrated.

Dark Places is fun. If the narrative styling of Gone Girl or Sharp Objects suits your fancy, this novel offers another trip through the quality storytelling of Gillian Flynn. I’m looking forward to her next release.

 

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