Friday, April 01, 2005

These Crowded Woods by Skye K. Moody

“These Crowded Woods” by Skye K. Moody, Wild Crimes edited by Dana Stabenow, Signet, Mass Market Paperback, $6.99

This story takes place in a large section of pristine woods inhabited by eight hermits. And a goat. The goat, Rosie, belongs to Winter Beacon, the oldest of the hermits and the longest in residence. Rosie, an ill-tempered beast on her best days, stopped giving milk when the woods became so crowded with hermits, putting a severe crimp in Winter’s breakfast cuisine.

The hermits begin dying one by one. The first to die, Wren, the nature photographer who wants to buy the entire woods, is found by the second to die, Marco, the telecommuting software engineer. The depredations continue in that manner: the person who finds the bodies is the next to die. There is no obvious sign of how the people are killed, but there is a mark left on the forehead of each victim along with signs that some superficial body part or other had been gnawed off.

The murders continue with each victim-to-be seeking out the help of one of the other hermits with varying degrees of success until only one hermit and the murderer are left.

The story is engaging and light without being what I would call humorous. The ending, however, didn’t live up to the rest. Ms. Moody is an accomplished writer and characterizes each of the hermits well, something not easily done for eight characters within a short story. She also keeps the mostly expository beginning of the story moving through a breezy, gossipy style and hints of what is to come, “getting ahead of the tale” as she puts it. But the ending just doesn’t work for me.

In short, enjoyable but ultimately disappointing.

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