Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Rose Collection, by Louisa Clerici

"The Rose Collection," by Louisa Clerici, in Dead Calm: Best New England Crime Stories 2012, edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, LeslieWheeler, published by Level Best Books, 2012.

Some weeks I can't find a single story I like.  Some weeks, on the other hand,  there is an embarrassment of riches.  Take this book (and really, what's the idea of calling an anthology of new stuff the "Best" stories?  That's cheating.)

I thought "Plain Vanilla" by Michael Nethercott would make a fine choice for the week.  But before I hit the weekend I read "Boxed" by Daniel Moses Luft. And then along came this little character study by Louisa Clerici, which knocked them both out of competition.

Obsession is either comic or tragic, depending on how close you are standing to the fallout.  The narrator is Laura, a woman who lives a pleasant if slightly stir-crazy life in rural Indiana.  Her life is changed when an elderly neighbor leaves her a piece of costume jewelry: a brooch that was "all sparkly with a pale gold intricate rose."  Get used to detailed description, because Laura provides them for whatever she thinks is interesting, while glossing over things she considers less important.  And that, you might say, provides the key to her character.

Laura starts studying about jewelry at the library and discovers that the best chance to get more is a big flea market in Cumberland, Indiana. Problem is her husband doesn't want her to go.  That doesn't turn out to be a problem for long, because he dies.  In fact, it is best not to get between Laura and her jewelry plans.

Some people say that in genre literature the plot matters more than the language, while in mainstream literature it is the opposite.  In this story the language is the plot.


  1. Having read this story, I totally agree with Robert. Louisa introduces a character you soon want to get to know better, you crave finding out what makes her tick, and when you do, watch out! I cared about Laura and wanted to see where she landed, on her feet or in jail. But Louisa's writing style is sublime and I found myself totally enthralled with the plot and language. Her descriptions of the "rose collection" were clear and concise; I could see every little facet of glitter and spark. Can't wait to read more of Louisa's work.

  2. Love Louisa Clerici .. can't wait to read this book!!

  3. Absolutely perfect write up on this story! I was enthralled from word one. I could picture every brooch and the look on Laura's face when she found them. I would hate to get in the way of her flea market investigative trips!! Wonderful, cannot wait to read more from this creative and whimsical author! Thanks Louisa.