Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Minerva James and the Goddess of Justice, by Mark Bruce
I have a fondness for the Black Orchid Novella Award, and not just because I won it once. Co-sponsored by AHMM and the Wolfe Pack, it is intended to honor and promote the novella genre used by one of my favorite authors, Rex Stout. The rules do not require you to copy Stout's format, but most of the winners do. (Typically that means a mastermind detective, a narrator/legman, and a final gathering of suspects.)
Let's get to Mark Bruce's winning entry. In 1962 Carson Robinson is a private eye in Sacramento, California. He was recently in the army, in "a place you never heard of called Vietnam... I was an advisor." They didn't like his advice, which was "to get out of that godforsaken jungle as fast as we could..."
He is hired by Minerva James, a famous defense lawyer.
Why would a high-class act like Minerva James summon a beaten veteran like me? I had only just obtained my license after two years of struggle and an initial failure to pass the licensing exam.
There is a murder case but she makes it clear that their job is not to catch a killer but to find evidence to exculpate her client.
"Mr Robinson, if I asked you to do something dirty and underhanded, would you do it?"
"No," I said. She looked at me in surprise.
"II thought you needed work," she said.
"I need a soul too."
It's going to be an interesting relationship. Makes for a good story.