Friday, July 3, 2015

MINI REVIEW: SINKING (An Inspector Richter Mystery Short)


INTRODUCTION 
It feels like forever since I've read a short story. I've read short novels and novels that I'd really consider novellas, but no short stories. I used to read them all the time, but ever since getting into writing and starting to read books again, I just haven't even really thought to pick up a short story in a while. I was inspired to change that when I got one for free.

HOW I CAME UPON IT 
Like I mentioned above, this story is free to anyone who wants to sign up for Cy Wyss's newsletter (I will leave the link at the end). Cy is an author of several indie books and this short story features a character named Inspector Richter who appears to have his own series of shorts, the first of which is already out and this one seems t be an advanced copy of one yet to be put up on amazon. I figured this would be a nice chance to sample the author's writing as well as meet a new character that I could potentially follow in a other work should I find him compelling in this story. What's better is that this is a fully packaged piece of work. It has it's own cover which sports a simple, yet pretty design and because you can get it in EPUB format, I was able to download it onto my tablet and read it through Google Books.

HOW I RATED IT 

4/5 This isn't one of the absolute best short stories I have ever read, but it is a fully functional, complete package, that manages to entertain with some fun modernized noir detective-work.

CHARACTERS
Despite this being a rather brief mystery, Cy Wyss manages to pack a pretty decent number of characters into this space. There's certainly not as many as say a Sherlock Holmes novel, but the cast size is probably pretty comparable to what you'd see during an hour-long television crime drama.

As one might imagine, many do not really get the chance to turn into a particularly compelling figure, but at the end of the day, it was really only ever about one of them... Inspector Richter himself. The other police detectives and the selection of civilians in the mix are all fine. They contribute to the plot and all have distinct physical traits as well as personalities, but Richter is the main attraction. On a superficial level, he's one of the most visually interesting characters I've ever seen as a main protagonist. He's a tad older than most and while handsome, he has scraggly facial hair and strangely colored eyes. His eyes are strange because they seem to be two different shades of blue and one of them looks slightly different depending on the light. Then there's the inspector's odd behavior, which isn't THAT odd considering other detective protagonists, but his aloof and observant nature is still interesting enough to keep him compelling. He's also rather humble about his work which IS a bit unique from other heroes in this genre and I liked this spin on the classic detective archetype.

WORLD/SETTING 
The world isn't anything inherently special since it's pretty much just modern day urban areas. That said, it is very well described and the story takes readers to a pretty generous selection of locations over the course of those precious thirty-ish pages. The modern setting is actually a bit more unique than I have let on though because tonally, this is very reminiscent of old-school crime mysteries and less so of what a lot of people are used to from shows like CSI and the like.

PLOT/TONE 
As mentioned above, this is a story that is a pretty interesting mix of old and new. The style and pacing feels classic, while the setting and format of the story feel quite a bit more contemporary. The plot itself is also a mix of cloak and dagger lies and trickery with a smattering of the more predictable plot-lines that detective dramas continue to churn out (because they are somehow enjoyable in spite of the recognizable patters). This contrast is what makes "Sinking" such a uniquely toned story. The writing and copy-editing is also quite good for the most part. I really only spotted one editing error and was mostly content with the way the author writes. Dialogue can be a little clunky as there are a lot of "he said" "she said" moments tacked on which gave the sense that it was a younger read than it actually turned out being. Other than this partially minor gripe, I found the composition of this piece to be quite solid.

As for the plot, there are a couple of downsides. First is that I kind of felt as though I knew what the final outcome would be before I was much further than halfway through. I tend to find this is the case for me with most "mysteries" and I didn't mind that much, but it is worth noting that I wasn't super shocked by the ending or anything like that. The second issue is simply that everything goes by very quickly. Nothing is really rushed, but the mystery simply isn't that complex nor does it contain too many twists. Mysteries are very difficult to cram into the real estate of a short story, even a longer short story, and I certainly commend the author for being able to deliver one that was coherent from start to finish within the allotted space. A lot of what helps create a sense of focus is how readers slowly get to learn more about Inspector Richter. This is definitely more of a story about how he solves mysteries rather than one that places emphasis on the mystery itself. This isn't a particular downside, it's just a creative choice that the author made. It also just makes more sense since what would sell this type of series of shorts is the main protagonist since he would be the primary constant within the world. On that note I do want to emphasize again that this IS a complete story. There's no lead in to something greater or any sense of there being loose ends still left by the conclusion. This just feels like an isolated episode that introduces readers to a character that they may not otherwise meet (though I believe this is technically the second in the series).

CONCLUSION 
This may not spin a web that is any more complex than the average weekly crime drama, but what do you really want out of a free short story? My answer: not much else and I probably wouldn't mind paying the $0.99 for this like the author's other shorts are posted for since the short bit of entertainment is certainly worth that entry fee. This isn't a story that wowed me in the way that some short stories have, but it was a really satisfying read that entertained from start to finish. It also introduced me to a new character that I will probably pick up as they come out (I believe there is one available already). I think in general, I may start looking into authors that write these type of shorts and sell them for really cheap. This one was good fun and satisfying to be able to read in single sitting so I could definitely spring for more of this sort of thing every now and then as a Friday evening read or whenever I have a free day without much else going on.

If you think you might like to pick this story up, head on over to Cy's website and sign up for the monthly newsletter. So far the monthly part has been pretty reliable so if you're worried about emails from the author more or less frequently than that, you really shouldn't worry - at least from what I have experienced so far. I'd do it sooner rather than later too since, as I mentioned, it will probably become a Kindle product at some point.

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