As the end of the year draws near, I thought that I might read and review a few short stories from this collection:
Police Report, by Joseph Finder.
When Chief of Police Henry Silva receives a call from dispatch about a body, he jumps into action. After he learns that the perpetrator is with the body and awaits the authorities, Silva speeds over to investigate. Ray Richardson awaits Silva’s arrival and is more than happy to explain why he killed Vladimir Polowski. Silva is led away from the scene as Richardson takes him to a local motel and shows him the proof he has amassed about how Polowski killed his father in 1958 and revenge was the only solution. By the time the State Police arrive, Silva has learned a great deal but is not entirely ready to turn over the suspect. However, knowing the chain of command, he releases Richardson into the custody of the State Police, only to realise things are completely backwards. It’s part and parcel for the Cold War and CIA antics.
The Last Confession, by John Lescroart
The story’s narrator lays the scene for growing up in a large Catholic family, full of siblings and highly devout parents. His next oldest brother, Julian, has signs of autism and has always been a little high-strung. While attending a school assembly run by the priests, the student body are told about the ramped-up Cuban Missile Crisis and how San Francisco is in the crosshairs for a missile strike. Testing their faith and fear of God, one of the priests leads the students to believe that a missile has been launched and is on its way, sure to kill them all. Julian’s reaction is emotion-filled and leads to him being mocked by others. Unable to bear the ridicule, Julian takes things into his own hands, which commences a domino effect that cannot be reversed.
A Card for Mother, by Gayle Lynds and John C. Sheldon
Fraulein Doktor Anna Klaas is working in Berlin, perfecting the turbofan engine, all in hopes of helping the West in its ongoing struggle against the Soviets. When Anna’s mother becomes ill, plagued with cancer, Anna does her best to cope with the devastating news, but knows that there is hope at the Mayo Clinic in the United States. Anna has not been able to secure the funds for anything but the initial trip and has to wait for Stasi approval to release her mother from her East Berlin apartment. News comes of an accident that has befallen her mother. The event might not have been as ‘accidental’ as Anna was led to believe. With the Stasi’s involvement, anything is possible.
His Mother’s Son, by J.A. Jance
Isadora Creswell and her husband, Lloyd, are surprised when their granddaughter blurts out that her father is a spy. Young Alyse saw Gunnar Creswell meeting with a beautiful woman in a local park before they played the suitcase switcheroo. Alyse is asked to keep this to herself, while Isadora and Lloyd use their numerous contacts to look into the far-fetched allegations. When Alyse calls, months later, to say that her father has been arrested by the FBI, Isadora worries more that her granddaughter could be in danger, as she is able to identify this mystery woman. When tragedy befalls Gunnar, Isadora concocts a plan to ensure that Alyse is kept safe from both the Americans and the Russians, for whom Gunnar has been working. Will it be enough to keep her out of the limelight or will the Creswells face a second tragedy in short order?
Side Effects, by T. Jefferson Parker
Mike lives as normal a life as a sixteen year-old can, with a fallout shelter stocked with food and neighbours preparing for the worst as well. He and his siblings, Max and Marie, must ensure the family shelter is properly prepared for the end of days and ready for the monthly meeting of the John Birch Society. However, Mike has bigger issues to attend, namely spending time with his neighbour (and secret crush) Adlyn Lamm. Adlyn tells Mike all about her father’s secret stash of experimental drugs, as part of a military program to control the masses. Adlyn and her brother, Larkin, have been able to experiment with these psychotropic drugs and Larkin has had some very odd side effects from taking them. The Lamms have had to move on countless occasions when young girls mysteriously disappear and are later found murdered. When Mike pieces it all together, he realised that Larkin is due to strike again soon, and can only be stopped if reached in time. Will another girl die at the hands of this drugged-out boy?
While this is only a cross-section of the stories in the larger collection, they offer an interesting collection of ideas and insights of some popular authors who grace the bestseller lists. They differ greatly, one from another, tied only together by their common Cold War theme. This is enough to provoke much divergence and great fictional presentations to tantalise the reader from beginning to end. Had I more time, I would likely dive in to read more, and maybe I will at some point later on. At present, what a great way to end the year, as the weather is equally Ice Cold.