Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Christmas Even

"Christmas Even" by Michael Connelly, Murder and All That Jazz, Robert J. Randisi, ed., Signet Books.

Detective Harry Bosch solves two mysteries in this story of frustration, loss, and debts repaid. That's a lot to get into one short story, but Mr. Connelly achieves it with seemingly effortless ease.

This story first appeared on Mr. Connelly's website, which is where I first read it. It was then revised and appeared in Playboy, but this is the first time the original version has appeared in print.

Harry and his buddy, Edgar, are called to a pawnshop on Christmas Eve where they find the dead body of a burglar. The shop, owned by a recent Russian immigrant, had been hit three times previously, all likely by the same guy. This time he died in the act, and Harry thinks it was no accident.

The burglary dick on the scene, Braxton, identifies the body as a long-time burglar named Monty Kelman. Harry and Braxton go to Kelman's apartment where Harry finds a saxophone that once belonged to a jazzman named Quentin McKenzie, aka Sugar Ray McK. Harry, a tunnel rat in the Vietnam War, saw Sugar Ray perform on a hospital ship off Danang. Thus begins Harry's second investigation, finding Sugar Ray McK and returning his ax.

The final scene makes the whole story for me. This scene overflows with emotion. Some short story writers think it takes too much time to set up an emotional scene, but Mr. Connelly does it in the bare minimum of space. Of course he sets up Harry's part earlier, but only uses a couple of paragraphs. And the way Sugar Ray reacts to the return of his saxophone is brilliant. One paragraph, 51 words. That's all it took. Outstanding.

In short, a wonderful story.


At 9:38 AM, Blogger Graham said...

As I look into my crystal ball, I see myself purchasing this anthology. Sounds pretty cool.

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Bob said...

It's a mass market paperback for $6.99. Worth the money.

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