Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

"Stranded" by V.L. McDermid (Flambard, 2005)

The range of character types and voices is rather limited, and the story-lengths give little scope for subtle plotting. Conflicts between work and home life are common, as are lesbian couples, solicitors, and one-night-stands that endure. Law-abiding people provide a story's surprise by committing crime. "Four Calling Birds" has a good first quarter, but fades into predictability. The ending of "When Larry met Allie" was so telegraphed that it was a surprise. At least 2 others could have ended a paragraph sooner.

That said, the pieces interested me more than I expected. I liked "The Wagon Mound". In "A wife in a million" I wondered whether the narrator was the murderer. It ends with "It could so easily have been me", which works on 2 levels. Even when the plot doesn't convince, there's enough banter to sustain interest - e.g. "One of these days I'm going to get the last word. Just wait till hell freezes over, that's all. Just wait" (p.118). The final piece mentions Ali Smith's The Whole Story and Other Stories. It doesn't work as a story - it sounds more like themed autobiographical fragments.

Other reviews

  • David Cotton (As can be expected from a collection of short stories, some are strong and others are weak. Unfortunately, in this case the weaker ones far outnumber the stronger ones. ... The worst story by a long shot is 'Four Calling Birds'. ... It was a deeply disappointing book from an author who definitely can do better.)

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