Short Story Review: “Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell” by Simon Clark

2 of 5 stars.

Sherlock Holmes and his faithful counterpart in Dr. Watson come with certain expectations. Watson often tells the tale, as he does here, being the Everyman to Holmes’ mad genius. There’s also a certain expectation on the unriddling of the conundrum at the basis of every Holmes’ tale. Watson, as an educated man, will note many things that the reader may or may not recognize. And, then Holmes will sweep in to solve a case that confounds Scotland Yard and Watson . . . and the reader.

This Holmes tale misses the mark. While the relationship between the Holmes and Watson plays right, and the dialogue sounds particularly Victorian and appropriately antiquated, the “mystery” is short on clues, reasoning and resolution. That the mystery seems to imply a supernatural, ghostly answer is expected. That the answer truly is supernatural breaks the point of Sherlock Holmes making apparent that which is unapparent.

The case: A man descends into the ocean depths in a diving bell to recover treasure. The cables break dooming the diver to a watery grave. Five years later, in a recovery of the recovery equipment, ghostly sounds and voices emanate from the long submerged diving bell. A second diving bell is sent down with two on board. It returns to the surface with both occupants dead of fright . . .

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Death by Dahlia” by Charlaine Harris

5 of 5 stars.

One of the most wonderful settings for a murder mystery is the dinner party spoiled by a body. This classic setup appeared in the movies Clue and Godford Park and in countless television shows including the launch of Remington Steele and before that in scores of novels. The gathering of people, each with a potential hidden agenda, lines up the suspects before the clues have even been revealed. Distrust and tension immediately follow. And hopefully, some clever detective work.

This well paced and plotted tale ironically takes place at the vampire mansion where protocol and diplomacy ranks above blood lust. The gathering is to celebrate the ascension of a new vampire family sheriff. The dethroned former boss is still around, and the new guy hasn’t been living in the mansion with the rest. Also in attendance are a smattering of werewolves, demons and half-demons, and non-fairy fae. There’s also the dozen humans blood donors the agency sent over, one of whom fails to walk back out of the mansion again . . .

The politics between races of supernaturals is thick with tension. But it pales in comparison to the ranks and rankles of the vampires, where age and status mean everything. Aside from the new and old bosses, there the friend with benefits to the new boss, the human shepherd with a human lover on the side, and another vamp married to a werewolf. Dahlia, a petite old vampire with centuries on most everybody at the party, is called upon to determine why there’s a human sprawled in the kitchen with a missing throat.

And who called the police . . . ? . . .

This tale is highly recommended. It appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Fox Tails” by Richard Parks

3 of 5 stars.

Pre-Modern Japan anchors this tale of animal spirits, ghosts, and the rigid class structure of the nobility. A low-ranked noble is hired to find a lord’s wife and son that disappeared after it was revealed that the wife was actually a true trickster fox spirit.

The role spirits and ghosts play in the culture is made clear. As are the strict rules and dangers for interacting with said spirits and ghosts. However, not all fox spirits should be judged by their bushy tails [plural] as the 2-tailed Lady truly loved her husband, showing a loyalty not usual granted the fox spirits.

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Manor of Lost Time.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Like Part of the Family” by Jonathan Maberry

Like Part of the FamilyLike Part of the Family by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While most detectives in such stories solve the main case at hand, not all own the case with such a deep sense of allegiance to the client. As the title implies, Sam Hunter, ex-PD and now a private dick, has a strong sense of loyalty and need to protect. Perhaps it comes with the territory–Sam’s a werewolf [No spoiler there.].

Sam’s main problem, and the reason he’s no longer on the force, is that he’ll go werewolf without regret on any molester/abuser using their power against the weak and disenfranchised. Call it evening the playing field, or better yet, reversing the tables.

The current client has put up with years of threats and abuse by the time she finds Sam. No, she didn’t report the previous black eyes and bruises. But after waking to find her ex-husband standing over her in her locked house, she’s convinced he’s out to kill her . . .

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Star of David” by Patricia Briggs

4 of 5 stars.

This one-off detective tale, brilliantly, is much more about the characters at its heart than about the case at hand. It would make a strong start to a series.

David discovered he was a werewolf when he returned from serving in Vietnam to a cheating wife with one foot out the door. In his uncontrolled rage, he destroyed his wife, her lover and the house they shared–all in front of his 12 y.o. daughter who bravely protected her 2 younger brothers from their father.

That was the last time he saw his daughter. For 40 years, he stayed away at her preteen, tearful request. Stella never married, nor had kids. Rather, she directed her energy into helping place fostered children into good, safe homes. The foster children are all her children.

When one of her good kids lands in the hospital with a broken bones and deep bruises after a new placement, one look at crime scene photos of destroyed furniture and the foster parents’ allegations of the bookish teen being the culprit sends Stella into flashbacks. She turns to her estranged father, now a detective and mercenary, for supernatural answers to an unexplained mess . . .

This tale is highly recommended. It appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran.

 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Swing Shift” by Dana Cameron

2 of 5 stars.

The subgenre of supernatural detective noir gets a 1940s gangland Boston addition with this tale [and series]. Former detective partners Harry and Jake went their separate ways when Harry joined the FBI’s war effort. Jake retreated into the New England countryside. But a case of war effort secrets being passed from a high security lab to the Nazis has Harry call Jake in for his insights.

Jake has somehow kept his werewolf identity from his former partner. He also brings in his family comprised curiously of both werewolves and vampires. Their looks and abilities doesn’t pull from standard mythos, nor does it explain how genetic werewolf and vampire can be sisters.

The stakes of the case, and the reveal are all lacking in this detective tale. The tale’s really Harry’s awakening into a new worldview which he accepts all too easily and without curiosity.

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran.

 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Impostors” by Sarah Monette

3 of 5 stars.

Paranormal investigators handle the most curious of cases. The paranormal partnership of Mick and Jamie is a study in contrasts. Mick is ESP-sensitive and slight while Jamie is usually the muscle.

When a series of suicides are linked by strangely similar last words, Mick and Jamie are pulled in to investigate. The victims are all guiltily convinced they’re impostors in their own bodies. While it seems a curse, the victims seem unrelated and random . . . Motive remains elusive.

The strength of the tale is the character development. However, the case itself is nicely clever.

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran. I’ve previously reviewed this author’s:
     “A Night in Electric Squidland”–4 stars
     “Somewhere Beneath Those Waves Was Her Home”–5 stars
     “White Charles”–3 stars
     [w/ Elizabeth Bear]–“The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward–4 stars

 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]