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Story Time Diane Matson Review by
Diane Matson
Lethal Kisses
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LETHAL KISSES - 1996
Edited by Ellen Datlow
Weidenfeld Military

Ellen collected a series of stories about revenge, delivered in unusual ways, for unusual reasons.  Sometimes the stories involve the supernatural, but most don’t. I expected Jack the Ripper meets Batman.  The stories are much weirder than I expected. Sometimes the weird worked very well, but often “make ‘em different” created more confusion than entertainment.

For instance, I couldn’t figure out what, exactly, happened at the end of a few stories. I reread them a few times, and wondered if I’d dropped all my brain cells somewhere, because I couldn’t tell you the ending if you paid me. It was like reading something written by someone on acid. Half the stories were more readable, though not outstanding (mostly 3 Bookwyrm material), but there were definitely a handful that stood out.
 
BUTCHER’S LOGIC by Roberta Lannes - I didn’t want to like it, because it was about a teenage girl, abused by her parents.  She based every decision in her life on what she feared her parents would do to her. Often, she didn’t make the choice a normal, adjusted adult would make, which made her situation worse.  I just wanted to protect her. An awful story told brilliantly. I liked it. I don’t want to.

A PUNCH IN THE DOUGHNUT by David J. Schow - An interesting tale about Durkin and Calloway, who were good friends. Then Calloway's gossipy mouth fabricated Durkin's homosexual tendencies, and the relationship soured. The main part of their story centers around their last meeting. Although I figured out the vengeance tool, I couldn't figure out exactly how the revenge was carried out, despite rereading the ending 3 times.

UNFORGOTTEN by Christopher Fowler - Refreshing, crisp words and slick pacing always flow from Chris’s stories, and once again this lovely trend continues. The narration is divided into three cycling sections.

Section One - A poetic lament for London’s lost, crumbling, and forgotten history. She has a life of her own, so powerful, that she’s more of an entity than a city.

Section Two - Various fascinating historical tidbits about London, usually involving unsolved murders. The type of history that Johnston, the main character, finds fascinating. For instance, Scotland Yard originally housed the Scotland kings during their visits to London. Buried in the walls are pieces of a woman’s body. To this day, no one knows who she was, nor who killed her.

Section Three - The actual narrative centers around Johnson, who once dreamed of being a historical architect. Now in his 50’s, he works for Adrian Marrick, a 24 year old hot shot who buys historical buildings so he can sell the real-estate. His newest quest is acquiring an old restaurant. Jonathan is fascinated by the history behind the place, while also hating himself for partaking in its imminent destruction.

About half way through the story, Chris introduces an architectural mystery, which, when solved, leads to a wonderfully horrid, and thoroughly satisfying ending.


FOREIGN BODIES by Michael Marshal Smith - David’s best friend, John, just started dating Tamsin. David’s never met her, yet Tamsin not only claims they know each other, but that they were loves and he did horrible things to her. While she seems familiar, he has absolutely can’t recall meeting her. David’s own relationship with Jenny, his girlfriend, and John are on the verge of getting blown to pieces by this sly, crazy woman, who seems bent on destroying his life. Though the story is the longest in the anthology, I whipped through it faster than most of the other stories.


A FLOCK OF PINK FLAMINGOS by Pat Murphy – Absolutely my favorite story in the anthology. It really stands out because it's the only one which is light and playful.  I absolutely love the protagonist - just the type of strong, calm, cheerful, ingenious, positive woman I'd love to play in a film.

The story is presented in first person narration. Nancy Dell has lived in Live Oak Estates for a long time. It's a comfortable, predictable life. This is due in a large part to Mr. Hoffer, who is the head of Live Oak Estates Home Owners Association. He makes sure everyone in the development conforms to the community rules for what a "proper" house should looks like, and the sort of appropriate lawn ornaments that won't detract housing values. There's even "traditional lawn ornament" specifics in the housing contract every resident signs.

Then Joan Egypt moves in, and, unfortunately for Mr. H., she likes to think outside the box. Shake things up a bit.  Calm, friendly Joan decorates her lawn with a flock of pink flamingos, which sets off Mr. Hoffer, and the predictability of the neighborhood begins to crumble in wonderful ways.

This story is the best reason to get this book. The day after reading it, I read it to my husband for our next "on the road" story. He got so sucked into it, he was giving the antagonist "F*** you" gestures and happily anticipating, out loud, what the next lawn ornament will be. I knew he'd like it! You will too.

Someone, please, turn this story into a classic movie (and PLEASE let me play Joan Egypt!) I like this story so much, I might even memorize it and add it to the collection of stories I perform.

Overall anthology review – 3 Bookwyrms

BookWyrmBookWyrmBookWyrm

This review copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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