Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Pain of Others

“The Pain of Others” by Blake Crouch. Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. March 2011.
My favorite stories usually share at least one of three qualities:
* Heightened language (the words do more than just tell the story)
* A great concept
* A surprise ending

Here is how the current story opens:

Letty Dobish, five weeks out of Fluvanna Correctional Center on a nine-month bit for felony theft, straightened the red wig over her short brown hair, adjusted the oversize Jimmy Choo sunglasses she’d lifted out of a locker two days ago at the Asheville Racquet and Fitness Club, and handed a twenty-spot to the cabbie.

“Want change, miss?” he asked.

“On a nine seventy-five fare? What does your heart tell you?”

Heightened language, check. By the fourth page I was also in love with the concept. At that point I thought to myself, “A spot on the Best Of list is yours to lose, Mr. Crouch. Let’s see if you can hold onto it.” Obvously he did.

Letty is a woman of convictions, more judicial than ethical, and during the commission of a crime she overhears a murder plot. It turns out she does care about something besides money. The results are surprising and darker than I would have guessed (see title).

My one complaint is that Letty, while not dumb, suffers from a bit of Dumb Heroine Syndrome, of the “We’re in a house with a murderer so let’s split up” variety. But it’s not fatal. Not to her, anyway.

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