Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"The Other Side of the Mirror" by Eric Van Lustbader

From: Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night ed. James Patterson. Mira, 2006.

This anthology of shorts by thriller writers is up for discussion on DetecToday next month, and I was lucky to find it on Mystery Loves Company's table in the book room at Bouchercon. I was curious whether thriller writers, known for their sprawling plots and over-the-top prose, would succeed at short stories, wherein much has to be condensed and focused.

In Van Lustbader's story, a spy on the verge of a nervous breakdown is hiding from his enemies in a seedy Buenos Aires hotel room. He reflects on how he was drawn to spycraft by his wife's death. As their love story plays back for readers, we realize his love can turn to jealousy instantly. In fact, he turns out to be a most unreliable narrator.

I found that despite the story's relative brevity (twenty pages), it still featured excess verbiage and false-sounding dialogue, the two main traits that turn me off from thrillers. That said, I have to admit I kept reading as the spy's mind slip out from under him.

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