Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Entertaining stories

There's nothing arty or pretentious about Sharyn McCrumb's short stories in her 1997 collection Foggy Mountain Breakdown, with the possible exception of "Gerda's Sense of Snow," the least successful of these stories. The tales, first published mostly in detective magazines, were meant to entertain, and that is what they do.

Mostly crime stories, as one would expect, they vary a great deal in tone, style, locale, characters and points of view. Some of them, like "Typewriter Man" and "Autumn Migration," flirt with the supernatural. Several are humorous, while others are as serious as death. Her surprise endings truly surprise. One never gets the feeling that if you have read one Sharyn McCrumb story, you have read them all.

In "Remains to be Seen," one of the more lighthearted stories, a couple of old women buy a mummy at an army surplus store. In "A Predatory Woman," a murderess released from prison turns out not to be the title character at all. "The Matchmaker" tells of a dating service that finds the perfect mate for a killer. The murder story in "Gentle Reader" is told entirely in a series of letters between an author and a fan. The title story, one of the best in the collection, tells of a bully who gets his just deserts, and then some. And so it goes, one gem after another.

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