Terry Keys is the editor and compiler of the eight stories that make up The Murder Files. He assures us that all the stories are new with their first appearance in this novel. The assurance is followed by a brief blurb about each selection which I initially avoided. I went back to read those after I read the stories just to see how my impressions met up with blurb expectations. One of my criteria for commenting on this selection is the originality of the story. This is a 2017 publication. In what ways do these stories provoke new thoughts and perspectives from me?
What Money Can’t Buy by Paul Casselle Ashby was about to hear whether a court of law would judge him guilty. But as for himself, the verdict was in. ORIGINALITY: Plus. We are not sure what the court verdict will be. We have a good idea what Ashby thinks about what the court decision will be. But whatever it is, there will be a conflict with Ashby’s self-evaluation.
The Butcher by Will Patching Harding has had a rough life. In this first person narrative, he describes a childhood of injustices that he felt arose from his unfortunate physical appearance that was a result of childhood physical trauma. But he has coped. He either burned bad memories away (physically and emotionally) or he has cut his problems into more manageable parts. ORIGINALITY: Plus. This is an extreme “the job shapes the actor” story. Once determined, what one has become will be consistently defended. There is an initial warning to readers who may be uneasy with extreme violence.
Collin O’Connor by Ernest Dempsey Collin is a super extra-judicial spy hunter. When he finds his quarry, he has the ability to manage the threat up to the level of killing the target. He works for a spy agency that answers to no one other than the President. In a 2017 environment, that may disturb some readers. ORIGINALITY: Average. The content is not unique in terms of the existence of an extra-judicial agency responsible to one person. What is good is the very detailed, step-by-step action sequence. I wouldn’t want to meet this writer in a dark alley under a threat of violence.
A Love Affair by Leah Monroe This is a story of infidelity revealed and what the revelation led to. That’s it. ORIGINALITY: Plus +. I found this way over the top in terms of originality. This story adds value to the entire collection and makes it worth a purchase. The sparse, stark prose and dialogue used to describe such a horrifying reality will shake up many readers. Did I mention it is ORIGINAL?
Downside Up by Jane Thornley This is another great story. There is criminal activity, the theft of a ring. But one actor thinks it is a theft, the other thinks it is revenge. And then we go to the chase. There is introspection on the part of the characters about their lives, how did they get here? ORIGINALITY: Plus +. What places this above the norm is the synthesis of a possible crime, possible revenge, definite romance, and a great ending.
The Son-in-Law by Craig A. Hart A third great read on my originality index. Steve used to be an assassin but had quit after marrying Rose. She wouldn’t approve even though she knew about the “life.” Her father was Steve’s boss. So Steve unofficially retired. That angered his former boss who reacted by making it impossible for Steve to find work. Now Steve was in deep financial trouble. One more job would please the old man. Just one more. But it didn’t work out that way. ORIGINALITY; Plus +. But I can’t say what makes it original; that would be a spoiler. Most readers will be shocked by the ending. Very well done.
Linking Arms with the Devil by Micheal Maxwell In this story the reader will find one person’s idea of finally attaining ultimate freedom. Not a solution for all, there is an entertaining account of getting there. Randy was an above average accountant. Jakob, a mob boss, wanted exclusive rights to Randy’s services. For Randy to say no was not an option although he tried many times to withhold services. Jakob threatened many times to use the ultimate sanction, death, applied to those close to Randy. But sometimes the work just piled up and couldn’t be done according to Jakob’s satisfaction. ORIGINALITY: Plus. The best part of the story is the way dialogues are put together. The ending is also a surprise.
Red Eyes by Terry Keys This story has the most emotional impact. It is the last in the series and that is good. I didn’t want to read anything else for a while after reading this. There is a student. There is a teacher. Enough said. ORIGINALITY: Plus ++. The content in the way it was presented puts this story in a class of its own. This is another story worth the price of the entire novel.