Friday, December 03, 2004

Simon and Dorothea

"Simon and Dorothea" by Eleanor Boylan, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Jan/Feb, 2005

It's a ghost story. OK. I can live with that, though I like cold-hearted, scary ghosts better than the warm, cuddly version in this story. The major problem I had with this story was that I didn't feel the author tried hard enough to make the stakes for the main character very high. He loses a very good job doing something he likes. His reaction? He decides he'll go to work at a local Waffle House. It'll be better there. He wants to clear the old man, his uncle, of a false accusation made a half-century earlier. He is determined to do it until he gets fired. He gives up, or would have without a deus ex machina. He is a young man in his very late teens or early twenties, but he acts like a 10 year old. "I'm never going back there!" And so on.

There was a lot of room for emotional depth in this story that wasn't taken advantage of. For instance, the old man on his deathbed. His predicament could have been exploited better through spending more time either with him or with the memories of him that the main character had. Compare and contrast what he is now with what he was. He fought through all the slings and arrows except this particular crossbow bolt. Or he didn't. We don't know. In this story the old man seems to me like an excuse to put the main character into contact with the ghost.

I wish this story had been better.