Deep Freeze by Michael Grumley

If you’d like to write a creepily exciting medical thriller set in the near future, you could do worse than Michael C. Grumley did in his new medical/techno-thriller, Deep Freeze. Like him, you might want to consider the consequences of the hubristic quest for immortality. Who would want such a thing? What massive ego is required to even contemplate it? And, at a technical level, how could science make it possible?

Lifespan extension is a hot topic today that extends beyond the laboratory into policymaking or even, you might say, philosophy. The conceptual seeds for a changed mindset about the inevitability of aging have already been planted. An effort is afoot to have aging declared a disease—a Pandora’s box for sure—which will legitimate medical research aimed at making aging “curable,” even reversible.

The bedrock requirement of medical and science-based thrillers is the believability of the underlying science. It may not be technically correct, and if it involves the future, it may never come to pass. Yet, the science must carry authority, with enough detail to be persuasive, but without turning into a textbook. Michael Crichton was a master at this; Neal Stephenson is too. It’s clear Grumley has done his research. He brings together several advances in medical science that might address some of the inherent challenges of enhanced longevity. Yet I wasn’t able to totally suspend disbelief, in part because his characters didn’t think like the many doctors and researchers I’ve worked with.

In an isolated research center in the Arizona desert some twenty years in the future, Grumley writes, medical scientists are working on a one-of-a-kind technology. You very soon get an inkling that everything in the running of the lab is not on the up-and-up. The sophisticated machine that Rachel Souza (a vascular physician) and her friend, technician Henry Yamada, are testing is designed to warm a frozen body (think cryogenics) very slowly. The machine has worked on animals, and the story begins with the first human test, an attempt to thaw the frozen body of former US Army Special Forces veteran John Reiff. Clearly, the stakes are high.

And they are successful. As Reiff gradually regains both physical and mental capacity, he senses Rachel and Henry aren’t completely honest about where he is and what the project is all about. But those uneasy feelings are nothing compared to the shock of learning he’s been kept in a frozen state by someone, somewhere, for twenty-two years. From the point he becomes aware of what’s happened to him, the story becomes a frantic scramble for Rachel, Henry, and Reiff’s survival (ironic, given the book’s overall theme). It becomes much like a conventional cat-and-mouse thriller.

Determinedly, almost naively, optimistic, Rachel takes much too long to recognize that all isn’t as it should be in the lab. Blinders on, she wasn’t convincing. Nor did I believe in the story’s villains—they were cardboard-cutout-evil.

Grumley maneuvers around the project’s ethical issues by eventually describing how, during the period Reiff was frozen, the world economy, governments, and social systems totally imploded. Traditional norms were abandoned. That’s such a major piece of context, it would have helped to have it much sooner—and in convincing detail. It also explains the odd anti-government allusions that occur earlier in the story. Several major pieces of the story are left hanging and will probably be the subject of subsequent books in this series (this is Book 1).

This medical thriller has a strong opening and includes several quite likeable and interesting characters. It provides a lot to think about, too, at multiple levels. You can’t quite hear about certain new medical advances without recalling it.

Broadcast Blues: New from Dick Belsky

Now that we’ve reached the sixth in former New York City newsman Dick Belsky’s mystery series featuring Channel 10 News Director Clare Carlson, picking up Broadcast Blues is like a rendezvous with an old friend. Belsky is a former newspaperman, as was Clare before her paper folded, and both of them tend to look down just a wee bit on the sometimes dubious journalistic standards of their on-air colleagues.

Clare’s snarky, self-deprecating sense of humor isn’t universally appreciated around the newsroom, at least by her boss, but as a reader I love it! Even better, she immediately recognizes where a story lies, has a bulldog’s determination to get to the bottom of it, and a keen sense of how to tell it. All her nights out, morning coffee stops, minor deceptions, and manipulation of the information machine take place in a Manhattan that is quite obviously the author’s home turf. His New York, like his newsroom, is the real deal.

This story begins with a page from a diary written by former cop and now private detective Wendy Kyle: ‘If you’re reading this, I’m already dead,’ it says. In fact, Kyle is dead, victim of a bomb planted in her car and set to explode when she opened the door. But who’d want to silence her? Clare’s keen to find out.

Kyle left the NYPD on not the greatest terms, accusing her commanding officer of attempted sexual assault. The client list for her agency, Heartbreaker Investigations, is mainly women out to prove marital infidelity. Loaded with some of New York’s richest and most powerful men, that list might generate some suspects. But the police declare the case closed. They say Kyle was killed by her ex-husband who wrote a confessional note then conveniently committed suicide. Clare doesn’t buy it.

Channel 10 is up for sale, and who knows what new ownership may bring. Clare has always been the station’s news director as well as an on-air reporter who breaks some of its biggest stories. Her boss repeatedly tells her to drop the Wendy Kyle case and focus on her management job, especially at a time of organizational uncertainty. A protagonist who won’t back off is a standard trope in crime fiction, and when it comes to Clare Carlson, everything about her tells you she’ll stick with it, regardless.

On a personal level, Clare is nearing her fiftieth birthday (kudos to Belsky for not creating another thirty-year-old, size six protagonist) and tells everyone who’ll listen that she’s not at all fussed about that milestone, but she does keep bringing it up. The author has a way of devising a story that is engaging, believable, and moves forward at the rapid pace of the 24-hour news cycle, and his character Clare Carlson is unfailingly entertaining. Naturally, you want Clare to succeed here, not just for Wendy Kyle’s sake, but also because Clare’s dedication to getting the truth out is something that deserves to carry on. Another win for Belsky!

At Least It’s PG-ish

Lots of stuff annoys readers—long passages in italics, omitting quotation marks, yada, yada—reported the Washington Post last year. I wrote up these reader pet peeves here and here. One I share with the Post kvetchers is the tendency of authors to describe even the most incidental female character in terms of her cleavage, the size of her bottom, the length of her legs, the sultriness of her glance. That’s mostly a quirk of men writers (and I fear it suggests how they actually see women), though even some women writers have picked it up.

Inspired and irritated, I wrote a short story, published in the Valentine’s Day issue of Yellow Mama (#102). It’s the kind of hard-boiled private eye story—venetian blinds striping the shadows, bottle of bourbon on the desk, dusty inbox—I associate with those sexy descriptions. The new blonde bombshell client, lounging in her skin-tight crimson silk dress against the doorframe of the seedy office, kind of thing.

With one key difference. In my story, the sexy new client is a man and the detective is a woman. I hope readers get the sarcasm. I suspect they will. You can read it here: “Here’s Looking at You.” Artist J. Elliott nicely captured the vibe of that office, too!

By the way, the name of the online zine Yellow Mama comes from the nickname of Alabama’s now-disused electric chair. That transgressive allusion suggests the need for the publication’s guidance for readers, “if you are easily offended or under 18 years of age, please don’t go there!” You’ll find my story is more PG. As for those sexy descriptions, I do set aside my objections for “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window” from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. Makes me laugh every time!

The Great Gimmelmans

Lee Matthew Goldberg’s title for his new crime novel–The Great Gimmelmans–sounds like the name of a circus act. And, indeed, the story includes masks, taking on roles, daring feats, and surprising actions, all most definitely like a circus. While in its early stages, you may be inclined to believe—in fact, you may fervently hope—that what is presented as Aaron Gimmelman’s memoir is the recounting of a light-hearted romp. It is not, and the author takes pains to foreshadow the darkness to come.

Twelve-year-old Aaron and his family—father Barry, mother Judith, sister Stephanie (16), and sister Jenny (8)—live an upper middle-class life in suburban New Jersey until Barry loses his job, and their house and nearly all their belongings are repossessed. Left with a few clothes and a campervan the collection agency didn’t know they own, they pile everything into the vehicle’s small space and head south. Nicknamed the Gimmelmans’ Getaway Gas-Guzzler, the camper threatens to exhaust every penny they have in the first few hundred miles, until, in desperation, Aaron robs a convenience store. Barry recognizes a good idea when he hears one and begins to plot other robberies—liquor stores, then a small bank. The farther south they travel, the more grandiose his ideas, the bigger the robbery targets. He ropes every family member into commission of the crimes, even Jenny.

They’re headed toward the Florida home of Judith’s mother, who has become an Orthodox Jew. She’s a hard case—prickly and judgmental. She’s never liked Barry, and as the story progresses, her criticisms seem more than justified. The contrast between her world, extreme in its own way, and that of her daughter and her family of talented lawbreakers is a head-spinning example of competing realities. It can be hard to know whom to root for.

Many humorous moments are sprinkled throughout, but author Goldberg makes his characters so real, I couldn’t set aside my anxiety about the increasing dangers they face—from the armed robberies, from an alcoholic FBI agent, and from a New Jersey mobster Barry has cheated.

Barry Gimmelman takes his family—and readers—on a wild ride at such a pace that family members rarely have time to stop and think. You may wonder how such a deluded individual ever operated as a stock trader. Or maybe that was the perfect job for him. Hope overcoming caution every time. Until . . . This crime thriller has received several award nominations (Anthony, Lefty), not, you’ll understand, from the Good Parenting Association. Yesterday I posted about establishing causation in a story (what prize-winner George Saunders says is often missing in his students’ literary works), well this novel is packed with consequences, most of them awful.

Stories in the Shadows

Two excellent crime stories, separated by a continent, couldn’t be more different, despite their similar titles. We have the East Coast version, The Psychologist’s Shadow, in which a psychologist (whose office is a mile from where I live IRL) is being stalked, and the danger is rising. Far away, on the West Coast, an AWOL Afghanistan vet ends up working as security in a Southern California strip club in Shadow Dance. Trouble ensues. Both authors are poets too. That helps the quality of the writing, and the reading is top-drawer too.

The Psychologist’s Shadow by Laury A. Egan
Fittingly, most of this story unwinds inside the head of psychologist Ellen Haskell, 36. Ellen has closed her Manhattan clinical practice and opened a new office in Princton, New Jersey, the college town where I live. Naturally, the mentions of familiar restaurants, stores, and roads is fun for me, but if you can conjure up a college town with its collection of characters and pressures, you’ll recognize it too.

What’s different about this novel is how well you get to know Ellen’s patients, as you journey through her week. As each patient’s problems are unmasked, you realize that any one of them could be the stalker plaguing her. She lives in a rural area some miles from town in a modern house with much glass. At night, everything inside is easily visible if someone were spying on her. Bit by bit, Ellen becomes convinced someone is.

As so often happens, a person who can offer sound advice or insights about other people seems not to carry that skill over to her own life. Slow to recognize danger. Reluctant to act.

You can almost believe Egan is herself a psychotherapist, so much of the patients’ stories is described with clinical sensitivity. But she is not. She is the author of a dozen previous novels, and has also published short stories and poetry, which may be why her language, even when talking about such elusive matters as feelings, is so clear.

Shadow Dance by Martin Ott
Buddy Rivet has ended his several tours in Afghanistan, somewhat—no, a great deal—worse for wear. He travels cross-country toward the disillusioning promise of California where his best friend Solomon St. James is working as a DJ in a strip club called, with deliberate irony, Club Paradise.

Solomon’s employer is Big Z Pourali, head of an extended Iranian family that believes it can write its own rules. The men are bullies, violent and abusive. The scheming, manipulative women—though attractive, unfortunately, to Solomon and Buddy—have their own agendas.

Rivet’s friend Solomon is gliding down a path to almost certain destruction, dealing drugs and consorting with would-be gangsters. Drugs, guns, alcohol, and sex—what can go wrong? Pretty much everything.

While all this may sound fairly bleak (and is), there’s humor too, and the quality of Ott’s writing lifts the story above its back-alley surroundings. He makes Rivet a perceptive observer, and what he sees are people who will always be on the outside looking in.

I liked Rivet, and I came to believe Club Paradise is only a temporary waystation on his journey to full adulthood, with new adventures to relate. You just have to hope he does find himself, somewhere, soon.

CIA veteran David McCloskey’s New Thriller: Moscow X

Two years ago, David McCloskey hit it big with his debut espionage novel, Damascus Station. Hordes of readers, intelligence professionals, and critics alike praised its realism and lively, timely plot. His new book, Moscow X, is even better, with more than one pundit calling him “The new John Le Carré.”

There’s no point in suggesting the plot in anything other than broad brush strokes because, in the tradition of the best spy fiction, what’s happening on the surface, the day-to-day events, are only a small part of the picture. And probably misleading too. I saw this story as essentially about the interplay of three women, all three well characterized, committed, and worth rooting for. But vastly different agendas.

Outspoken and profane Artemis Aphrodite Procter is back, heading a new CIA unit called Moscow X whose aim is to undermine the Russian Federation and—yes, McCloskey names names—Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Her unconventional approach to spycraft gives her a creative edge in this job and, naturally, keeps her skating on some pretty thin bureaucratic ice. Hortensia Fox is a CIA operative working at a London law firm that specializes in handling the assets of wealthy Russians. Calling herself Sia, she’s busily trolling for information and cultivating contacts. Anna Andreevna Agapova is a Russian FSB agent, member of a wealthy Russian family, and married to an even wealthier man she cannot stand, for good reason. The Agapova family is being systematically shut out of the government power structure and, as the story opens, a huge portion of its wealth is stolen at the behest of a Putin intimate. Anna and her father believe (or prefer to believe) this occurred outside Putin’s awareness, and they want their money back.

Procter, as much a fireball as ever, sees an opportunity for Sia to use this theft as an opening wedge that will lead to, well, who knows? Maybe getting the money back and maybe in a way that looks like a coup was in the works. If Putin hasn’t paid attention to the internecine warfare among his cronies, he cannot ignore an attempted coup. And would take dramatic, destabilizing action in response.

Procter’s team develops a rather charming ruse to get Anna and her husband, Vadim, in contact with the Western agents. Vadim and Anna live on a large horse farm outside Saint Petersburg. Sia offers a visit to an elegant Mexican horse farm, headed by Maximiliano Castillo—around Sia’s age and handsome—leaving out the critical detail that the farm has been a CIA front for decades. All Max and Sia need do is act like a couple and winkle their way into the Russians’ confidence, Anna’s at least, through the business of buying and selling and riding thoroughbreds. It becomes a clever cat-and-mouse game between Anna and Sia and your opinion of which is the cat and which the mouse will keep changing.

Difficulty piles onto difficulty. What makes this book such an exciting read is that, between the Russians’ impenetrable motivations and the Western agents’ complicated and shifting agendas, there is no end to the potential dangers Max and Sia and Anna face, with Procter wringing her hands back in Langley. Although all the characters’ actions make sense, according to their own visions of reality and self-interest, you nevertheless can’t predict what will happen when you turn the page. When your operative in a hostile country starts looking for a beam she can throw a noose over, you know the situation has reached a desperate point.

Oh, and did I mention it’s winter in Russia? Lots of snow. Snow everywhere. You can’t hide your tracks or your heat sig and, of course, those drones with their facial recognition technology are watching. When Max and Sia visit Anna, they know microphones and cameras are everywhere, even in the bedroom, so their being a couple has to seem real to those watchers—more challenging than it sounds.

McCloskey effectively evokes the paranoia and suspicion of the autocratic Russian state, in contrast to sunny San Cristobal. The author avoids most mention of the drug cartels, and you may wonder how the Castillo family keeps that brand of violence away from their barns and pastures, but so much bad stuff is going on—you’ll never miss it.

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Kill Show by Daniel Swearen-Becker

Author Daniel Sweren-Becker must have been well tuned in to the zeitgeist when he conceived Kill Show, his newly published mysteryl that delves into important critiques of the true crime genre. Written in the style of a television documentary script, the novel consists almost entirely of short verbatim quotes from 26 of the story’s principals, with no descriptions unless a character happens to provide one. The principals are being re-interviewed a decade after the events they’re called upon to explore. The book is their testimony.

Ten years earlier, in suburban Frederick County, Maryland, 16-year-old Sara Parcell disappeared. Her parents and brother panicked. Her friends were bereft. School officials tried to console. Local police were baffled. Now, as they talk about Sara, her family, the community, the disappearance and its aftermath, they amplify, contextualize, and at times contradict each other. Piece by piece, the story comes into focus.

In the emotional turmoil immediately after Sara’s disappearance, her dad, Dave Parcell, waves his bank statement in front of the cameras camped outside his home. He has $1762. That’s all. But he’ll put it every dollar of it up for a reward. A dramatic moment the news cameras catch, but not as viral as the cell-phone video Sara’s brother Jack makes a few moments later, showing Dave and his wife Jeannette back in their house, embracing, Jeannette in hysterics.

Across the country in Hollywood, Jack’s video sparks a brilliant programming idea in the head of Casey Hawthorne, a reality TV show producer. She convinces her boss to pay for her and a production crew to fly to Maryland, and then convinces the Parcell family that a reality television series—Searching for Sara—will bring massive attention to the disappearance and help get their daughter back.

They are desperate. They agree. To say Casey Hawthorne is full of herself, manipulative, and not to be trusted hardly describes the extent of the void in her character. Once in Maryland, right at the start, she makes a strategic choice that negatively influences everything that comes afterward. She meets Detective Felix Calderon in a bar, and, rather than revealing who she is and why she’s really in town, she lies. And sleeps with him. As a result, when aspects of the case start to deteriorate, the lead detective on the case has no credibility with the public, his superiors in the police department, or the prosecutor.

Of course, many more people involved in this debacle are lying. And, if not lying outright, they’re not telling the whole truth, or they’re shading it to justify their actions. Many characters undergo a shift in perspective over the course of the weeks the search drags on and shocking revelations emerge; others seem incapable of taking new information on board. In the end, quite a few Frederick County residents have reason to take a hard look at the role they played in the outcome.

When Sweren-Becker wants to delve into ethical grey areas, he provides comments from a pop culture critic or a sociology professor. In that way too, the novel reads very much like a real-life television documentary. This device never becomes tedious or heavy-handed. Meanwhile, in real life, true-crime dramas have come in for criticism, even though they’re still immensely popular. (A 2014 13-episode podcast, Serial, also about the murder of a Maryland teenager was downloaded more than 340 million times in the first four years of its availability.) Sweren-Becker’s story effectively demonstrates the main critiques of the genre: exploiting real people for entertainment, looking for sensation rather than examining systemic problems, and objectifying victims. Casey Hawthorne’s Searching for Sara is definitely guilty on the first two counts. If you have your own reservations about the public obsession with true-crime shows, this book will confirm them. Partly due to the format and partly to the compelling situation, this is a quick read, yet a profound one. Highly recommended.

More critique of the true-crime phenomenon are in my recent blog post: “Is peak true crime in the rearview?”

Valley of Refuge

Valley of Refuge, the new thriller by John Teschner, starts off like a mystery. At least it was a mystery to me, with three intriguing stories evolving at once. Social media magnate Frank Dalton is doing something Big on the Big Island of Hawai`i, a woman passenger on a Hawai`i-bound airplane has completely lost her memory and doesn’t recognize the person her passport says she is, and a young Hawaiian woman, Nalani, is at risk of losing her ancestral lands, which the magnate wants.

As the stories move forward—and especially as the memory of the woman called Janice Diaz gradually returns, these strands weave into a tightly constructed, complex plot. Because the action—and Teschner packs plenty of it into the novel’s seven-day timeline—takes place almost exclusively in Hawai`i, you’re treated to elegant descriptions of the topography and plant life, the fishing and surfing, the sunsets and weather—including a cataclysmic rainstorm at the climax that will leave you feeling drenched.

Frank Dalton heads a company called Sokoni that dominates the social media world. Make that “the world.” But for someone who amassed his fortune enabling people to make connections with each other, his project in Hawai`i is the antithesis of that. He’s building a no-expense-spared refuge with the impossible goal of keeping people out.

Janice Diaz is whisked from the plane to a hospital then turned out on the street. No luggage. No reservations that she knows of. No friends or family. She has a phone, but doesn’t remember its security code. And, someone is trying to kill her.

The scenes with Nalani, her mother, and her Uncle Solomon, expert in the ways of nature, contrast starkly with Dalton’s artificial world. The Hawaiians are happy with their meager parcel, while Dalton’s multimillion dollar estate fills him with anxiety.

It takes a while for the characters’ roles in the story to shape up, and Teschner uses short chapters to bounce you from one intriguing plot point to another. The pace gradually picks up steam, acquiring such strong narrative power that the last day’s events rush forward like the storm itself.

All these characters are well realized, and I especially liked Janice Diaz, the homeless woman who helps her, Nalani, and the realtor struggling to finalize the transfer of Nalani’s family’s property. Naturally, it’s harder to warm to Dalton, with his narcissism and conviction he can control the universe, but that portrayal is effectively drawn too. Teschner uses a fair amount of the Hawaiian language—both by the Hawaiians and the whites who want to show how with-it they are—but it isn’t hard to follow. Context usually takes care of it, and he provides a handy glossary, just in case. It’s an exciting and atmospheric read. Loved it!

Dead Drop

James L’Etoile’s award-winning crime thriller Dead Drop takes a 360-degree look at the intertwined issues of illegal immigration, drug and arms smuggling, and unfettered violence plaguing the southwest United States and the challenges they present law enforcement. After a career spent in the California penal system, L’Etoile has seen these problems play out first-hand. In this action-packed story, you do too.

When it comes to the illegal border crossers, Phoenix, Arizona, detective Nathan Parker tries vainly to hold on to the principle, “Yes, they’re desperate, but what they’re doing is against the law.” But when he’s faced with some of the realities the immigrants confront—and, ultimately, when he becomes an illegal border crosser himself—he starts not just to see, but to appreciate the other side of the story.

In this novel, the immigration issue has many troubling dimensions—fentanyl trafficking, rapacious coyotes, weapons galore, disregard for human life, and the spotty coordination of federal, state, and local efforts to combat any of these. The quest for personal and organizational glory makes inter-agency cooperation more difficult, as always.

While the U.S. Attorney is working to create an airtight case against the drug smugglers—a process that’s taking literally years—people are dying in real time. One of them was Parker’s long-time partner, a death for which Parker blames himself. A new lead appears when a cell phone number is found on a dead man. He’s one of four found in the desert, sealed up in 55 gallon oil drums. Parker’s encounter with the owner of that cell phone leads to his suspension from the force.

The barrels were discovered by Billie Carson, a woman living on the raggedy margins of society, scavenging whatever she can find abandoned in the desolate landscape. Billie has learned how to navigate a dysfunctional support system and, contrary to his expectations, Parker learns a lot from her. Suspended, he isn’t supposed to keep investigating any link to his partner’s shooting, but (of course) he does, and Billie and he may be at risk because of their connection with the bodies in the barrels.

Given all the players—criminals, law enforcement, bystanders, innocent or not—it’s a complicated plot with a lot of characters and a lot of agendas, much like real life, probably. L’Etoile writes convincingly about his law enforcement characters, and some have managed to maintain a sense of humor. Billie’s a solid female character, but several of the other women are less believable.

The way L’Etoile describes the unforgiving desert environment of northern Mexico and south Arizona, for many people and even for a time for Parker, it’s almost as much an enemy as the gun-toting coyotes smuggling people through the tunnels under the “impenetrable” U.S. border wall.

It’s a memorable story, and if you want to read more about this troubled area, I recommend Don Winslow’s The Cartel and Down by the River, riveting nonfiction by the late investigative reporter Charles Bowden.

Order here from Amazon (if you use these affiliate links, Amazon sends me a small payment):
Dead Drop
The Cartel
Down by the River

drugs, El Paso, Rio Grande, narcotraficantes, DEA, Border Patrol, Mexico, Texas
U.S. Border Patrol agents on the Rio Grande (photo: c1.staticflickr)

Pumpkin Spice Reading

pumpkin, book art

Ghostly apparitions, the bloodier and unDisneyfied fairy tales, the scary stories told around a campfire. They all become more spine-tingling as darkness closes in on the days of autumn.

At some time in the next three weeks, if you want to prep for Halloween by more than filling a plastic pumpkin with candy for the kids, here’s a trio of horror short stories designed to shiver your timbers and get you in the mood.

“The October Game” by Ray Bradbury (1948) – A sadistic spouse, a pitch-black basement, a game that just might go awry, Bradbury partners with your imagination to ramp up the chills. Hear it here on the Classic Ghost Stories Podcast, which offers many more.

“Berenice” by Edgar Allan Poe (1835) – Less well known than “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” or “The Pit and the Pendulum”—all of which are heart-skippingly scary—this one appeals to me because I’ve used it to create two of my own short stories. You can read Poe’s original here. He describes an increasingly unhinged young man who marries his cousin. He obsesses on her teeth. And when she dies, he pulls them out. I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself. My 21st century version, published in Quoth the Raven, is about a meth addict (the bad teeth) obsessed with her twin brother and his girlfriend who has perfect dentition. It doesn’t end happily. My other story based on “Berenice” ends much more happily and appears in a 2021 collection titled Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe. Holmes and Watson to the rescue!

“The Landlady” by Roald Dahl (1959) also invokes the virtue of beautiful teeth. A young man needing a cheap place to stay makes a bad choice. A master class in devious foreshadowing. You know you’re in for it when the first paragraph ends, “But the air was deadly cold and the wind was like a flat blade of ice on his cheeks.” Read it here.

Now, go grab a sweater.