2 of 5 stars.
The mark of a good detective is agile thinking and an ability to elicit the proper response, whether action or words, from others. Not every case requires the flatfoot to hoof it–the investigator just needs to understand the situation differently from the client perplexed by it.
This tale sits between a vignette and a parable [much shorter and shallower than a short story] as the detective never leaves his office to solve/resolve the client’s dilemma. It’s the sort of thing that might happen between the pages of a longer story and then complement the bigger cases. Here, it’s left hanging on its own: a well-to-do client comes in hours before his ten-year deal with the devil comes due. He wants to avoid the hell-hounds despite his demon-contract.
The detective merely parses out the details of the contract and gathers intel on the supernatural deal-maker to sort things out. Throw in a bottle of bourbon and the noir scenario is complete. While this vignette logics out fine, the ending begs for more of the world of the detective than this gives. Sometimes one wants to see more of the detective than his sheltered office . . .
This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran.
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