My favorite reading genres are crime, dark, horror and dark. Constant reading in only favorite genres can lead to a reading slump and a feeling of “Isn’t there anything new out there?” Little Killers: A to Z by Howard Odentz will bring anyone out of reader ennui. The front blurb for this book is great: “Bad things come in small packages.” In this case, Odentz delivers twenty-six small packages with a large variety of bad things. All involve children who are atrocious, horrible and abominable in their actions or the children are witnesses to actions which are the same. You may never look at ten-year-old children in your neighborhood again without wondering what is going on in their heads. Not your children, of course. They are angels. The stories in this collection are about other people’s kids. In your neighborhood.
My usual practice is to comment on each story but that is too cumbersome to do for twenty-six stories. I will mention a few and quote some of the lines that struck me. All the stories are superior. Most will distract the reader and until the end when reader attention will be forced in a new direction. Sometimes the reader will even feel the pull of the rope around the neck as Odentz writes “Not there … look over here.” I gave this five Amazon stars and a highly recommended comment. I was amazed at the author restraint in the use of sexual terms. On more than one occasion a character will stop at “And then … well, you know.” And the reader knows.
There is a similar lack of unneeded graphic language to describe violence. But that opinion comes from a fan of crime and horror so my opinion probably should be taken with a grain of anything poisonous. I look forward to my son’s comments; my books forward to his Kindle phone app.
Each chapter begins with the name of a child and a clever phrase that hints at the horror to come. I read them in order; in a collection of short stories that is unnecessary but it seems to me that beginning with “M is for Maura Who Builds a Partition,” the stories got even darker. Maura is pure hate and I don’t want to meet the reader who admires Maura. Even Andy, a very cold-hearted person in the first story (there is a pun in there somewhere) can’t match Maura for pure evil.
If each short story is about children, the voices should be those of children and this is where Odentz displays his writing skills. The children, for the most part, are believable. There are a few vampire or paranormal monster stories but for the most part, the collected stories are about some very sick, warped kids taking paths which will amaze unsuspecting adults in the stories and lead some readers to paranoia.
There might be an admirable child somewhere in this collection. In “Q is for Quinn Who’s an Animal Lover,” readers might admire Quinn and her mother. They rescue a variety of animals, unlike Mrs. Birmingham who only rescues pigs. A lot of pigs. Quinn had different favorites: “Manuel, their one-winged rescue Macaw. He shifted from one foot to another atop his perch next to … a naked and possibly mentally ill cockatoo named Booby.” (p. 105). Then there is Quinn’s dog, Toby, a pet so disfigured that Quinn had to create a unique mechanism that allowed Toby to go on walks, rolls, or slides with Quinn.
Little Killers is USD 0.99 on Amazon. Go to the author page and you can get a free story, Snow. Once you are hooked on Odentz, prices for other novels are higher, usually USD 2.99 and under. I am tempted to buy Wicked Dead just to see if I can find out why it is priced at USD 3.03.