Monday, January 17, 2005

The Bog

"The Bog" By Loren D. Estleman, Wild Crimes Edited by Dana Stabenow, Signet Books, $6.99, Mass Market Paperback

The main character of this standalone story believes firmly in the old adage that revenge is a dish best served cold. He is, from all indications, a fairly successful writer of mysteries, one of those guys who can't stop talking about the ideas they have. That very characteristic has brought him to murder.

He spoke about one of his pet ideas in the presence of a hack writer named Hufnagle who then took the idea and wrote a book based on it. The book had a brief run then vanished into obscurity. The narrator (yes, it's first person, that POV that serious writers never use) now considers the idea to be ruined and unusable. He decides to kill the cockroach, Hufnagle.

But, being a mystery writer and familiar with the ways of cops and criminals, he knows that he has to be clever and careful about the means and method. So he bides his time for five years, in the meantime befriending the rat, Hufnagle, and including him in his inner circle of friends.

Finally he determines that the time is right. He invites the parasite, Hufnagle, to his house in the country and kills him with strychnine disguised as cocaine. Now comes the cleverest part of the plan: disposing of the body. And it is clever, very likely clever enough to make this the perfect crime. Given the title of the story I don't feel like I'm giving anything away by telling you it involves an ancient bog. The particular use of that bog is the clever part, so I won't give that away. Unfortunately for our narrator there seems to be no such thing as an original idea.

My only quibble is that the final scene, the one that delivers the twist, felt contrived. I believe that the scene would have been better had it occurred 24 hours (story time) later than it did, becoming a confrontation rather than a conversation. Read the story, you'll know what I mean.

In short, I liked it.