Thursday, October 07, 2010

"Neighbors" by Joseph Finder

From: Agents of Treachery ed. Otto Penzler. Vintage Crime, 2010.

Finder's contribution to an anthology of original espionage stories follows protagonist Matt Parker's suspicions of his new neighbor Jimmy Nourwood. The suspicions seem to start on the level of mild prejudice: "He looks Arab. 'Nourwood'? That can't be his real name." When Matt's computer searches on Nourwood come up empty, you have to wonder what's going on.

As far as he goes to learn about Jimmy, Matt is very guarded about his own life. As I read the story, I measured my own view of Jimmy against Matt's increasing paranoia and aggressive actions. Eventually I found Matt so distasteful I turned away from him—and was blindsided by everything he was hiding.

Whether you gravitate toward Matt or Jimmy, I'm betting you'll be surprised, too.


Graham Powell said...

Let me guess: Jimmy Nourwood is really Scott Norwood, still hiding out in shame after missing that kick in the Super Bowl.

Anonymous said...

That story also caught me off guard, but in retrospect it made perfect sense.

In the same book, Agents of Treachery, there is a story by Lee Child. This story also caught me off guard, but only because I had the nagging feeling I had read it before. And it turns out I did. It was called The Dangerous Business by Lawrence Block. I doubt that the plot theft was intentional (it's a fairly simple idea), but I am surprised that Penzler would let that story slip past him.