Male rock stars are known for their sexual transgressions, so it's quite ironic when Bern Aldershot, Long Beach California guy made good, guitar man for the band that performed the great tune Crashing Through Mirrors years back, gets raped. It's ironic, but not funny. He is raped before dawn in a parking lot, in a vicious act involving wire cords, and like so many rape victims, he's loath to report the rape to the police. That is, until he realizes that he is one among a series of victims. In the months before his attack, two women were raped, and two months after his ordeal, a woman gets raped and killed. The man committing these crimes is escalating. Horrified and humiliated by his own violation, Bern didn't tell anyone about it, but after he sees a TV news story about the woman murdered by the serial rapist, he knows he has to tell the cops. He does, but in a twist that must confront many female victims of this particular crime, his story is doubted. His motives for why he took so long to come forward are doubted. He shows up at the police station unwashed and with booze on his breath, with his rock star reputation preceding him; you could say that in the cop's eyes he's the male equivalent of a "loose" woman. Who is going to believe his story? So he's forced to take action on his own, and what we then get in this novella by the fearless Anonymous-9 is something rather unusual - a male rape revenge story. The female rape revenge tale has become a familiar enough staple, but the different angle here adds a charge, a frisson. And when you throw into the mix, a teenage girl (named London) who Bern comes across and eventually befriends, his connection to her putting her at great risk from the rapist, you have all the ingredients in place for a suspenseful novella with characters you care about. You keep reading fast to the end.
Crashing Through Mirrors is the first thing I've read by Anonymous-9, the pen name of Elaine Ash. She writes the Hard Bite series about a paraplegic who kills hit-and-run drivers with the help from a monkey named Sid. That premise may sound farfetched, but if Crashing Through Mirrors is any indication, Anonymous-9 is one of those authors who can take the outre and make it plausible. Her prose is sharp and economical in the hardboiled manner, but it also has an oddly light touch. Bern can be self-deprecating in a way that is both humorous and endearing. And the author is not afraid, even in a novella, to take a brief detour that doesn't advance the plot per se but adds wonderful tension and flavoring: Bern and London have an encounter with a motorcycle gang that shows how celebrity, for all the annoyances it brings with paparazzi and such, can also be a saving grace. Tatty parts of Los Angeles and Long Beach are evoked well in this novella, and one gets the sense throughout that Anonymous-9 is quite familiar with Bern's world. She needs just a sentence or two to set a scene, create an atmosphere.
Crashing Through Mirrors is a swift read that you should pick up. It entertains. My only quibble, if I can call it that, is the slight annoyance I felt at its brevity. I could have spent more time with these characters. I'd like to know more about Bern, his brother, and Bern's music scene, about London and her life, and even the killer. Why exactly did he rape one man and three women? What's his deal? The guy's a rapist/killer bastard, okay, but the author has got the makings of a striking, monstrous villain here.
Grow this thing, Anonymous-9. Give us more.
Crashing Through Mirrors is available from Amazon.