Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Perfect Victim

"The Perfect Victim" by Ed Lynskey, Hardluck Stories, November 2004

This story combines a PI, Frank Johnson, and a serial killer. Usually this kind of combination doesn't work for practical reasons: PIs seldom have the experience and never have the resources for this kind of investigation. Mr. Lynskey arranges the story in such a way that the situation is believable.

Peebles, a sergeant in the Virginia State Police, ostensibly picks Johnson out to help due to his experience with a Neo-Nazi cult. It turns out that Peebles has an ulterior motive.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lynskey has a propensity for purple prose. "A gentian blue sky had purpled to bring rain and flush the day's sunny poetry." It's a lovely sentence, but it doesn't belong in this story. "Here murderous October was in the books . . . . Pale skepticism beat back my hunch until, exploding in gaudier colors, it grew incontrovertible."

All those were major speed bumps coming up, as they do, in a first-person account by someone who clearly does not have the soul or education of a poet. My critique partner would call these passages "authorial intrusion", and he'd be right.

Mr. Lynskey refers in the story to a ".44 Charter Arms Pug". As I remember, the .44-caliber revolver made by Charter Arms was called the Bulldog. Michael Bane calls the Bulldog the world's best "200-round revolver," meaning, fire it 200 times, then buy yourself a new one. I don't remember the Pug, but it may have been Charter Arms' .38-caliber offering.

And I simply cannot let the following sentence go by: "The Prizm's door let in Peebles." I'm sorry, but I have a major problem with anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. I understand the impulse to state commonplace things in an uncommon manner to introduce variety, but imparting independent action to a hunk of metal and plastic is not the way to do it.

As for the ending, I could see it happening like this. After all, people are infinitely variable. I do feel, however, that the ending could have had more punch had the outcome been different.

In short, not Mr. Lynskey's best.