The Lift by Andrew Barrett is a short story that begins as a kind of vocabulary exercise or test. This is not a negative criticism; the language play is an attention grabber. Those of us who live “in the colonies” know that there is a good chance the author was writing about an experience that involves an elevator but we can forgive the author’s highbrow choice of words. Especially since I got the book free from the author’s mailing list. I overlook a lot of things for the price of free. Although it was pushing it to call an apartment building an “estate.” And the estate had flats. (Sigh). No wonder we revolted. The language then shifts abruptly into police jargon. Will readers know the etymology of “scrote?” Probably. And if the reader feels proud to know that one how about this? “(He) didn’t have a Scooby how to fix them (problems).” (Kindle location 38). Sometimes the author explains new terms. “Bogoff” equals “bogus official.”
Eddie Collins is a crime scene investigator (currently known as CSIs). Today (in the story) Eddie has an assignment. He must go to an apartment inside an apartment building where he will investigate the scene of a crime. Eddie is happy to do this; the alternative is to be stuck in an office writing reports. He arrives at the location at the same time as another couple; a young, scruffy looking, bad smelling, wannabe gangster and a pugnacious looking older man that could be the young man’s grandfather. They enter the elevator and begin an ascent. The elevator breaks down and the three are trapped for an indeterminate but lengthy period of time in a social situation that demands communication take place. Reg Harding, an elderly ex-cop, reveals that he, Grant, the young gangster, and Eddie are going to the same apartment, although for different purposes.
Eddie will go to the apartment to investigate the scene as well as document and record evidence. Reg will visit his sister who has recently been robbed. Reg is sure Grant robbed his sister and has forcibly brought Grant to the scene for positive identification. Maybe the planned roles of the three characters would have worked out if the elevator had not broken. In the stalled car several adversarial relationships develop and there is the threat of death for any one or all of them.
This is a very clever short story that should lead a reader to Barrett’s longer works. I will read his longer novels to see if he can sustain the dry wit that is displayed in this short story. Another point to watch is investigator Eddie’s tendency to look at every detail of daily life. Read the scene where Eddie is holding the door open for an elderly lady. It is well described and we get to read more of the dry humor. If all Barrett’s works have this kind of humor, I will be a FFL (fan for life).