Sunday, June 4, 2023

A Flash of Headlights, by Ken Linn

"A Flash of Headlights," by Ken Linn, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May/June 2023.

This one is right in my wheelhouse, as they say.   I am drawn to stories about people who screw up and then seek redemption, successfully or not.  

Brody does yard maintenance.  A year earlier he was charged with a DUI.  He has been sober ever since, just barely.

But that's not the issue for which he seeks redemption.

He makes a casual spur-of-the-moment decision to do what he considers a friendly gesture.  This leads to a tragedy - a tragedy which affects people he cares about.  

Many years ago I wrote here: "There is a streak of puritanism running through some noir literature.  Take one step off the straight-and-narrow and you are inevitably doomed.  Things keep getting worse and every attempt you make to correct your path only drags you inexorably toward the pit."

This story doesn't have the feel of noir, but it does have that sense. Every move Brody can make feels like it will make his situation worse.

If there is a moral in this fine story it is this: To achieve your goal you first need to figure out what your goal really is.  

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