As the author explains, First Stone is the first episode in Season 1 of a serial-like collection of stories titled The Stepping Stone Cycle starring Jack Carter, forensic psychologist. The opening scene depicts a man rousing from a coma-like state, opening his eyes to discover himself in the mental hospital, where he has been for months. This is Jack, and he is told that he was missing for close to a month before being found, and that his wife is still missing. The authorities want to know if he killed his wife. He remembers absolutely nothing.
This is the overreaching thread that will bind the episodes together, the master conflict that will define Jack’s perspective of the world and create a cloud of doubt about him and his motives, no matter what he tries to tell anyone else.
First Stone in particular leads down some incredibly dark paths, taking the reader on a deep and emotional investigation of a serial killer in West Virgina. All of the evidence indicates the killer, but the man accused is an alcoholic, dead-beat, unemployed hick living in a trailer on the mountainside – hardly a suitable profile – and he doesn’t remember a thing about murdering anyone.
This story quickly draws the reader into the plight of the characters, main and supporting, and builds a new reality worthy of being put on screen. There is a careful balance of story and action, shock and confusion to keep the reader interested and challenged. The clues come in many forms and details and point to intriguing possibilities. Who or what is affecting Jack? When will he learn the truth and what is he going to find?
5 Stars – Worthy. Well-written, captivating, intriguing.
59 Hours is a darkly sinister short story set somewhere in the period of the Dust Bowl days of middle America. Farms are going under due to the drought; and all across the country, money is tight for farm families. People are willing to go to great lengths to save their land or secure for themselves some modicum of wealth for their future. Greed brings out the absolute worst traits in human beings.
Through a mixture of internal dialogue, flashbacks, and straight forward third person perspective, the author draws a sketch of two people who cross paths only because neither one of them are where they should be. Neither is aware that they are actually cut from the same cloth, so to speak.
While the ending certainly left me impressed by its dark twist and somewhat unexpected revelations, I struggled with the unrealistic speech patterns and forced dialogue. Just when I would start to get a feel for one of the character’s personalities by their word choices, a phrase or sentence would throw everything off again. Michael was set up as a quiet, sullen lurker at first and suddenly became very charismatic. I would have found him more believable if he had immediately laid on the charm to the young woman on his doorstep.
There were some very fine passages in the mix that helped propel the story, but I found myself wanting more of these same meaningful word choices that showed me the situation and surroundings with the same inventive imagery. I wanted to really feel the excitement that Frances felt at the taste of her new life. The words simply didn’t instill the feelings in the way I expected. The ending was much better than the beginning.
“Two weathered straight backed chairs on the porch faced the road. Frances sat on the nearest one and fidgeted to kill time, unsure of what to do next. Her fingers nervously drummed against her legs as she listened for any sound of life.”
3 Stars – A good story, suitable to its genre, especially at the end; but there were a few flaws that held me back.
59 Hours is available on Smashwords.com
With a foreword written by Rik Winston, the host of radio show UFO All Night, Consternation of Monsters is a collection of spine-tingling short stories that will leave you feeling wary of closing your eyes at night. I find myself left considering the possibilities…
Opening with The Hocco Makes the Echo, we are introduced to a brilliant boy who knows a little something about the woods that his father doesn’t know. As parents, we often try to toughen up children so they aren’t afraid of simple, common facts of life and nature. But frequently, children make observations beyond the realm of adult understanding.
I have always been a fan of stories that look at the world through an unusual set of eyes. Wolves Among Stones at Dusk applies this method by playing a scene through the eyes of a Mexican gray wolf. The wolf watches an unfortunate human scene of violence from atop a mesa. The author focuses on the scents that the wolf interprets, noting fear, anger, regret, and other emotions as they emanate as odors from the body.
Limited Edition plays upon the franchise of the Antiques Roadshow, bringing to light that out there, among the wealth of rare human collectibles (and the myriad piles of junk we collect), are hidden objects far older and more intrinsically important to human existence and progress than our shallow brains can fathom.
Some of these stories are interconnected, revisiting the lives of the characters in new situations. Each touched upon a poignant aspect of human nature as well as the supernatural. The reader is taken on adventures through the ancient, the mystical, and the powerful, delving into ideas of creation and destruction that most of us have not considered. All around us, ancient magic stirs and intersects with human life. When we chance to see these old, universal spirits, we have the choice to let them do their work unimpeded or grab hold of the ultimate power, even if that choice is ill-conceived.
Pick up this book and open up your mind.