Evergreen ChaseGenres: Fantasy
, Short Stories Pages:
32 Series: Shady Hollow #3.5 Rating:
It’s the winter solstice in Shady Hollow, that magical time of year when creatures of all shapes and sizes come together to honor the season and eat as much pie as possible. Reporter Vera Vixen is eager to experience her first holiday in town and is especially looking forward to the unveiling of the solstice tree. But then disaster strikes. The year’s tree—the tallest in the forest—has disappeared without a trace. Can Vera, her best friend, Lenore, and Deputy Orville Braun find the tree and save the season? Or will this year’s solstice be especially dark?
Evergreen Chase is a short story in Juneau Black’s Shady Hollow mystery series, with a slightly lower-stakes mystery that’s appropriate for the winter season. The creatures of Shady Hollow are due to celebrate the winter solstice with the proper pomp and circumstance — traditions many look forward to all year — when the tree ear-marked to stand in the centre of town is… stolen?! How do you steal a tree?
As ever with this series, the culprit is fairly easy to guess, and even more so because of the length of the story. It’s still a good chance to check in on some lovely characters, and to experience the cosy charm of Shady Hollow for a little longer. The denouement is predictably satisfying: needless to say, the world is set to rights.
I think one of my favourite things is actually the characterisation of Lefty, a raccoon who’s always up to no good… but tries not to do too much bad either. Petty larceny is about the size of it, and when someone’s spoiling the season, Lefty’s doing his best to help. Quietly. Sneakily. And don’t tell anyone!
Settling Scores: Sporting MysteriesGenres: Crime
, Short Stories Series: British Library Crime Classics Rating:
Talented sportsmen inexplicably go absent without leave, crafty gamblers conspire in the hope of making a killing, and personal rivalries and jealousies come to a head on fields of play The classic stories in this new British Library anthology show that crime is a game for all seasons.
I thought I’d read these sporting mysteries (in this collection curated by Martin Edwards) in honour of the Rugby World Cup, the only sport I have so far managed to care about or even half-understand. The majority of these stories need no sporting knowledge at all to understand and follow; the sporting environment is just the backdrop. Even where you do need to know something, it’s fairly minimal.
It’s not a bad spread of stories, though the tone varies a bit (some stories feel rather brutal, and one involves spies and espionage, etc). Not one of my favourite collections, perhaps, but the sporting types might appreciate it a bit more. I did appreciate that it wasn’t just football and cricket stories or something — there was an archery story included, for example.
As ever, the collection is greater than the sum of its parts: it’s nice to read across a spread of the classic crime/mystery writers, and not just the biggest names, though there is (inevitably) a story by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Sacraments for the UnfitGenres: Fantasy
, Short Stories Pages:
The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic brought out the ritualist in many of us. In this collection of contemporary weird short fiction, a variety of different persons and beings try to fill up their days in varying states of isolation and mystery, real or imaginary. An angel outlives the Apparat that used to employ him; a deity complains about no longer feeling seen; a museum curator living alone begins to inexplicably alter; a medievalist suffering from vision loss gets into a strange relationship with the ghost of the codicologist M. R. James; enigmatic objects begin to work themselves out of the ground by the grave of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, prompting scholarly speculation. Sacraments For the Unfit is a series of vignettes about the transformations that can happen while staying in place.
I can see why this book has been compared with Ursula Le Guin’s work. It had the same quality I have with some of her more impenetrable stories where I just don’t quite “get it”. Some of them seem to require some outside knowledge for more clarity — a little knowledge of M.R. James wouldn’t hurt, or Wittgenstein, which is quite the ask (I know a little about James, almost nothing about Wittgenstein).
In the end I don’t regret reading it, but also it wasn’t quite 100% squarely my thing, if that makes sense. I’m eager to read more of Tolmie’s books and stories, though: I really liked The Fourth Island and All the Horses of Iceland.