A collection of stories with a common theme, Close to the Bones has contributions from eleven authors. Only three of the stories failed to hold my interest. Read the short descriptions below to find out which ones. The first two stories and the last story are worth the investment of time and money. Priced at USD 4.99 on Amazon, I opted for the KU subscription option and read it for the subscription price.
1. Bedtime Bones Story by Martha Carr Amy Simmons is a most unlikely hero. Newly graduated and looking for her first job, she surprised herself with her growing satisfaction at being hired to read stories to a man on death’s door. She felt there was more to the man’s situation than what appeared on the surface. After a series of Nancy Drew like investigation attempts, the dying man finally told her a secret. She probably could have done without the confidence.
2. The Dark Imprint by Lee Hayton People leave evidence of their presence after death. Bretta Ariel can read the imprints left behind. The police are interested in her abilities to solve cold cases. Bretta is looking for a full time job. Each time she enters a mental state from which she can read these imprints, she risks losing a bit of herself. How badly does she need a job?
3. Fatherlands by Basil Sands This story is one of the better spy short stories I have read. There is a lot of interesting cultural information about turn-of-the-twentieth century society in Europe and the US.
4. Paranoid in Paradise by Craig Martelle In a contrast with Fatherlands, this is one of the most unexciting stories I read. There are too many coincidences so readers have to be willing to suspend belief. There are multiple agents from different spy agencies who just happen to be in a hotel area. A hotel “floating” employee, hired to give kiosk employees a break, is also a spy. A garrulous police officer who is quite willing to talk about police methodology to a wife of one of the spies is fortuitously present. This is a story detached from reality.
5. The Spy Who Came in from the East Coast by Erika Mitchell A story along the lines of “You can’t go home again.” Daniel is a spy; he hasn’t seen his family for seven years. On his first vacation home he confronts the problem of what to talk about. His worries were unfounded. They had somewhat figured out what he did for a living and they had a mission for him. Just help Uncle Johnny get rid of the problem he had with a gang that was blackmailing him. This is another story set in unreality.
6. Catching the Edge by Stephen Campbell Another story of coming home, this time from the war in Afghanistan. Reggie Carpenter graduated from law school but joined the Marines looking for adventure. After six years of excitement he was home working as a private investigator for the family law firm run by his twin sister. While on a date, he received a wrong number call demanding ransom for a five-year-old girl. His date didn’t want him to pursue the matter. The police wanted him to abandon the case. Reggie didn’t listen well. Maybe he had hearing loss from the war. But there would be an almost happy ending.
7. Girl Will Frame by Mixi J. Applebottom John is her husband, Sam is her brother and her baby was born dead. We don’t know who she is but she has resolved to kill herself and frame her husband for her murder. She can’t decide exactly how to do it and leave proof behind that will send her husband to jail. What did he do to deserve such a strange revenge? He was not present with her at the hospital the night her baby was born dead. She tried and tried to call him but there was never an answer or return call. He was probably with his secretary but she wasn’t sure about that. She was just sure that she would kill herself and her husband would pay.
8. Knucklebones by David Berens An interesting story about an unusually highly placed US government officer in Afghanistan being kidnapped and held for ransom. While ransom negotiations are going on, parts of the kidnap victim are returned incrementally to officials who are arguing about paying the ransom. There is a highly entertaining account of lower ranking US helicopter pilots negotiating with Afghan citizens who might or might not be the enemy.
9. The Interrogator by John Ling Haron Omar was pulled out of his home and subjected to interrogation by the rendition team. Top level interrogator Karim would manage the step-by-step program that would lead to Omar’s confession. Omar claimed innocence but as Karim told him, “Everyone is innocent … until they are not.” And Karim was always right … until he wasn’t.
10. The Backpack by Ethan Jones This is a pure non-stop action car chase story with a few other things added. You won’t put this short story down after starting it. It’s good.
11. Green Lake Bones by A. C. Fuller This last story is the best of the collection not only because it is so topical about trends in fake news but because it is a well-told (written) story. Can you imagine a time when CNN, Fox News, and the cable news channels all cease transmission at the same time? A. C. Fuller can and explains why.