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It’s August, 1952 in the small town of Sweetwater, Missouri, where a deadly drought has the residents begging for rain, and with it, mercy. But on this particular day, just another in a long line of dry days with three-digit temperatures, mercy will not be given. As the mercury rises and the power fails, gossip runs rampant and tempers flare, causing a handful of the most prestigious members of the community to point their fingers at Bob Greeley. Until today, Bob has lived among them as a friend and neighbor, but with his fate in their hands, that’s about to change.

REVIEWS

“…this novel is spot on. It is the story of what gossip and crowd mentality can do, and it’s not very pretty. This novel will make you think twice before you judge others…” — Independent Review

“…I felt like I was there.” — Independent Review

Free on 8th Jul 17
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Reviews:

"A thought-provoking and carefully written short story that readers of drama and suspense fiction will enjoy, as will anyone who likes good writing."

Reviewer: .


Grace and Bob's marriage is utterly miserable, but in the 1952 Missouri there was no divorce. And then one day a neighbour sees a handprint bruise, and in the sweltering heat of the summer, the gossip swiftly grows into something worse.

The characters are well described, the plot moves slowly but with inevitability towards the end, and the writing is gripping. The only story I can think to compare this to is Shirley Jackson's 'Lottery' - an otherwise sane community engages in something utterly insane.

Each chapter tells the story of a different local family, starting with the Greeleys. As they discuss the local gossip and rumours, you get a view of the overall community and it is a threatening one. As the story goes on it follows the gossip as it spreads, and knowing the background of each character you can see how it will change and how each will react as the town slowly turns into a powder keg. The most striking feature is that even as the gossip spreads and grows, as each group contributes what they know to the picture - and it isn't a pretty picture - the reader still knows that they only know part of the puzzle.

Making Bob Greeley as unsympathetic as he is initially is a good choice, as it keeps the reader hooked by making it seem upfront that his death would be justified. The problem is that all the later defences fail, when you know from the first page that Bob is a wife beater. His wife's later attempted speech comes off more as Stockholm syndrome than righteous rage, and final death seems more like divine judgement that the townsfolk's guilt. Forgetting that he beat her the moment he's dead (the victim telling themselves "it's not that bad") is actually a pretty common reaction.

There is one other thing that does stand out, though I am not sure if it is unintended by the author, or simply subtle. If the men of the town had listened to the initial complaints of Bob wife-beating and intervened: a word from his boss for example, rather than telling their wives it didn't matter, then events would not have escalated so far and Bob would still be alive.

There is only one formatting issue I spotted: Loc 1336 has an odd typo "F5" appears in the middle of a sentence without warning. Otherwise it is very, very, good.

A thought-provoking and carefully written short story that readers of drama and suspense fiction will enjoy, as will anyone who likes good writing.

Rating: 4



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Discussion

rz3300 (18 August 2016)
Well first off, i LOVE short stories, so you have my attention there. Second, I have to say that this title is very intriguing, and it leaves just enough open for me to really speculate about what it means, which of course just makes me want to read it. Drama and suspense, you have me there too. Then you top it off with good writing, I am sold. Thanks for sharing this, and I am saving it and I will read it later tonight. Thank you.

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