Review: “The Mermaid Game” by Chris Howard

3 of 5 stars.

Memories can inspire and they can stifle. In this tale, a writer has not been able to write a word in the 4 years since the death of his beloved wife. Detective Andy Kavanagh has had moderate success with his mystery and spy novels. However, the wellspring of creativity dried up when his wife, Sergeant Julia Elenora Kavanagh, failed to return home alive from Afghanistan when her Humvee was hit.

Retreating to his boat, Elenora, Andy mysteriously loses his wedding ring into the ocean and then finds it again slipped on the finger of a decaying body in a macabre underwater garden of thirteen corpses wired into place. A sea-born woman, Klearistis, returns the ring to his boat and in a series of appearances both to his locked office and to his off-shore boat proves as slippery as Houdini and as enticing as Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. She knows far too much about Julia’s last weeks alive and makes it clear that the corpse garden was all a snare to capture Andy. But to what end?

The tale takes the classic muse and embodies it in the supernatural Klearistis, but the artist-writer in this case wants nothing to do with her. He has embraced his misery, his sadness. Here, the muse craves the creativity of the artist. She must inspire or be his therapy, even at her own expense and well-being.

This story appears in the latest anthology edited by Paula Guran, Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, published by Prime Books. “The Mermaid Game” first appeared in The Mermaid Game (Lykeion Books, 2014).
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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