Sunday, June 7, 2015
Dyed to Death, by K.G. McAbee
Last week I said my favorite story was all about setting. And here we are again.
McAbee's story won the Black Orchid Novella Award, given each year bu AHMM and the Wolfe Pack for a novella that best carries on the Rex Stout tradition. The winners usually have a Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin format, meaning a great detective and an assistant narrates the story. This is true in "Dyed to Death," but as I said, it is the setting that is the true main character.
It is the late twenties in a company town somewhere in the south. Our narrator is Sam, a boy in his late teens. He never recovered from an injury in the cotton mill when he was fifteen (the same mill killed his father) so he works at the company store. His boss is Guy Henson who, beside running the store is also the village constable. He also is a former millworker, but experiences in the Great War left him unable to tolerate loud noises.
When Sam finds a woman drowned in the river, dyed purple from the weekly dumping of a mill vat, Henson has to find out what happened. Sam, a dedicated reader of Black Mask, is thrilled to be able to participate.
I should say I didn't think the ending of this story was as strong as the rest of it. But McAbee gives us a strong sense of what life was like in a town where the mill owner set the rules and could throw you out of your home on a whim. I hope to see more of Guy and Sam.