I caught some winks at my desk and dreamt I was in one of the burning shacks, screaming I wasn’t sick. When I woke up, sweating, I saw Jack perched in the opposite chair, staring at me. She was a street kid, scrawny, pale and unkempt. Fifteen, but looked twelve, and the best damn receptionist I ever had – but quiet, lately. Something secret and ugly on her mind.
“Jesus, kid,” I said. “Wear a bell or something.”
Jack pointed at the bloody shoe on my desk. “Did the guy kill his moll or something?”
It took me a minute to realize she meant Maroni. Ha. As if that boob had it in him.
“Different case,” I said.
“Didn’t know we had a different case.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Side case, you mean?”
“What’s life without work?”
“What’s life without dough?” But she hopped up on my desk anyway and didn’t give me any more grif about it. “Tell me the tale,” Jack said, so I told her about the woman in blue silk.
This is just the first installment in a in a trilogy of novelettes by Carlie St. George, The Spindle City Mysteries. It reads like a mystery, the main character is a sleuth in the vein of old hard-boiled detective stories, but the vibe is definitely fantasy. You can easily see 1940s America evocated by the main character’s voice especially, but this is a place that stands nowhere in actual America. It’s a world of high society, with the awareness that there is a far darker, poorer, more derelict side to it.
What I liked the most about the story isn’t the setting, though. It isn’t even the plot, which is actually quite simple and straightforward. It’s more the world I have a glimpse at through this first novelette.
Years ago, a horrible plague swept this world and people went mental. Everybody suspected everybody else to be infected by a illness to which there was no cure. So the only cure possible was getting rid of the ill people. That created a purge that killed thousands of people, whether ill or not.
A cure was finally found, but it’s an unstable one and above all it’s so expensive that only rich people can afford it. Besides, pharmaceutics are making huge money with this cure.
But in the shadow, secret societies are working to make the cure available to anyone, and they are using every means at hand.
I’m really intrigued by this idea, especially the secret society. Here, more than in the mystery plot, lies the conflict of the story and I’m sure there will be more about it in the next installments, which makes me happy.
In addition to be part of the Thursday Quotables meme at Bookshelf Fantasies, which I often take part to, this post is also part of the Retelling Challenge at the Daily Prophecy. In fact, there is a sense of retelling of the Cinderella story here, though to be honest the elements from Cinderella are so few and so faded that I can hardly call this a retelling. Still these few elements are there, and in spite of adding very little to the story (as I mentioned the conflict is elsewhere) I enjoyed reading and recognizing them.