Tuesday, October 15, 2013
THE MALFEASANCE OCCASIONAL: GIRL TROUBLE
The excellent Criminal Element site has put out its first crowd-sourced e-collection. THE MALFEASANCE OCCASIONAL: GIRL TROUBLE, edited by Clare Toohey, is a batch of 14 stories on the very topic the title describes. And it's fair to say that the stories live up to the title. Girl trouble in all sorts of permutations is what is on display here, and quite entertaining this trouble is, too - well, if not for the characters involved, then at least for the reader.
"Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter", by Eric Cline, the first story, sets an appropriately creepy tone, as the narrator obsesses over a way to take revenge on the woman who fired him from his job. While we can sympathize with his anger over his former boss's imperiousness, it's difficult for us to stay on his side when he uses social media to disguise himself and befriend the boss's teenage daughter. It's all quite plausible and it seems as if the plan of vengeance he's hatched will work. Until.........
Revenge is the main theme also in another of my favorites - "Benign" by Caroline J. Orvis. "I started stalking my breast surgeon almost by accident," is the first sentence, and as the story proceeds, we come to understand and sympathize with the narrator's outrage. It's not even as if the doctor she's stalking did anything wrong or negligent, but his clinical coolness smacks of an insensitivity that puts you on the narrator's side. Suffice it to say the irony present in the ending stings also.
Travis Richardson provides a different sort of ending in "Incident on the 405". It's an ending I'm sure will divide readers. Some will think it works - an appropriate end considering the character involved; others may mutter a curse. I'll confess I didn't love it at first, but it's grown on me since I read it, and the entire story that leads up to it is terrific: fast, suspenseful, and a sharp commentary on women who have to deal with powerful, piggish men. There's a wonderful twist that occurs in the relationship between the two women in the story, and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, of all things, proves to be a source of great inspiration (not of the literary kind).
There are plenty more women in this collection fighting in some way to survive, and all told, the quality of the stories is high. Women serve as thieves, authors, actresses, drug addicts, muses, daughters, mothers. The stories range in tone from lighthearted to reflective to noirish to grim. There's an amusing literary crime story, "The Wentworth Letter" by Jeff Soloway, and even a piece of dark, speculative fiction, "Girl of Great Price" by Milo James Fowler (very intriguing).
If you're looking for a good, quick read with a lot of variety, I'd suggest spending time with these women. It's remarkable how much trouble these girls get into, and sometimes, but not always, get out of.