The Huntress – a review

I’m still behind with my book reviews as my reading continues to be faster than my writing. However, I’m ahead in my 2019 Goodreads Challenge– 20 books read from my target of 35.

As for reviews, this will be my ninth Cloak and Dagger review of 2019; with two more to review. Plus, four more outstanding reviews outside the genre.

This may not be trad-crime, but this novel did feel like a thriller to me – with war crimes from the opening page.

The Huntress

by Kate Quinn

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, THE ALICE NETWORK, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted… 

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.

Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Growing up in post-war Boston, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes homes with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past—only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family . . . secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.

In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth.

Review 5 stars

From this novel’s opening with the Huntress deciding to move into the shadows, I was engrossed in the story, the characters, settings, the history and Kate Quinn’s writing.

I was in awe of the writing throughout and discovered another wonderful author to follow. I could see everything unfold as we were introduced to the main players. The novel is told through the senses of three POVs – if you don’t count that brief tempting glimpse into the head of the Huntress in the Prologue.

First, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride who’s determined to become a photographer post-WWII and is inspired by the likes of Margaret Bourke-White – one of my heroines. She is pleased when her widowed father, who owns a Boston antiques shop, forms a relationship with Austrian widow Annelise Weber – but she is also suspicious. Suspicions that are heightened and dismissed or disproved but stirred up again.

Then, in 1950s West Germany, the reader meets British war correspondent Ian Graham who has become a Nazi hunter, aided by Tony Rodomovky, a ‘Yank’ with Polish-Hungarian blood. But other people want to move on from focusing on Nazi crimes, especially the judges – the focus has shifted onto the ‘Commies’. However, for Ian, finding the elusive Huntress is personal – a reveal not rushed by the author.

Finally, we are in harsh and remote Siberia, where my favourite character, Nina Markova needs to escape her father. Facing tough prospects if she remains, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment that wreaked havoc on the invading Germans. Friendships and more are forged amid a terrible struggle to survive a gritty and vicious war.

The research for this character was impressive and I applaud Kate Quinn’s ability to blend fact with an emotional and riveting story. The focus is on the regiment, but Stalin’s cruel regime lurks in the shadows. Nina must manoeuvre between the two despotic forces and carve out a life – with a razor in her oversize boots.

This book, those remarkable aviators, and this character propelled me down a ‘Night Witches rabbit hole’ – and added to my reading list.

The three lives/plotlines gradually weave together, with their different timelines merging. The author doesn’t rush this process but crafts it with domino-events that build. I loved the use of drip reveals. Especially as to how Nina encounters Ian and Tony. Only one of those men is a Russian speaker, and that is a tasty device – one that had me re-reading parts of the book with a grin while writing this review.

The novel uses its various settings from Siberia to Massachusetts to enhance the action and the characters. For instance, lakes play a central role for all three main characters. And to the Huntress whose haven was Lake Rusalka in Poland.

But which of the well-portrayed characters will prove to be the rusalka – a lethal, malevolent water spirit? They are all intricate in their traits and their backstories, yet there are no road-hump info dumps.

The detail was balanced, whether about the main or supporting cast. There was even a brief appearance by a character from ‘The Alice Network’ – although I hadn’t read Kate Quinn’s previous novel at the time. But I nodded when I met her again.

Anyway, the plotlines in ‘The Huntress’ merge, building towards a confrontation that could go different ways – depending on how the complexity of the personalities impacts on events. Revenge can depend on experiences, on abilities. As can justice. So, what can happen and will it? A memorable ending is set up with care. Maybe, there was a dip before that point, and I wanted a faster resolution. Or was I sharing the frustration of being a Nazi hunter? Or do characters need spaces to build their futures?

In summary, I enjoyed the clever plotlines, the complex characters, significant settings, excellent research and writing style so much I want more

A book that’s hard to forget – not that I want to. In fact, I look forward to listening to the Audible version – now I’ve finished listening to the author’s equally engrossing ‘The Alice Network’ and they share a superb narrator.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

#IWSG – Favoured Genre

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, theInsecure Writer’s Support Groupmonthly blog post is here again – and so am I.

I’m still recovering from the A to Z month and INSECURE as I have a shrinking backlog of emails/blog posts, reviews to write, as well as the final few WRiTE CLUB rounds, plus short stories to write.

These include an entry for the 2019 IWSG Anthology – another Insecurity. I’m going to write outside my comfort zone as the requirement is: Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy. Sounds great. Middle Grade – I’ve never tried. Historical – I read so okay. Adventure – check. Fantasy – check. But together? What sort of genre is that?

Theme is no problem as ‘Voyagers’ can be interpreted lots of ways. I even have two historical ideas, but they aren’t fantasy as such – not yet.

I’m going to read The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell as it’s MG. It’s MG, historical, and fantasy – according to Goodreads – and it’s on my desk. But I’m unclear whether my ideas fit ‘Historical – Adventure/Fantasy’. More research?

Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale as a read might fit, and it’s on my bookshelf – but it’s YA not MG.

Lots of reading ahead whatever path I tread.

Anyway, on to this month’s question.

June 5 question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favourite to write in and why?

Interesting question as I read multiple genres: mystery/crime/thriller; historical; alternative history; fantasy; science fiction/speculative; post-apocalyptic. Over the decades, I’ve tried to write most of those.

But – for now – I come back to crime. Crime in the sense of my police procedural series, Snowdon Shadows.

Why? As my protagonist, Sparkle Anwyl is a fascinating character to write – quirky and a detective with her unique approach to solving crime. Plus, my heart is back in North Wales, where the series is set.

Yes, there are other draft novels in different genres. But Sparkle and duty calls.

*

The awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton,Kim Lajevardi,Sylvia Ney,Sarah Foster,Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

#WEP/IWSG June 2019 Challenge – Caged Bird

Originally, I had planned to write a Sparkle Anwyl case for the 2019 WEP + IWSG Challenge starting in April and ending in December. I wrote the first episode in April, but then posted the next episode of Kindled Casket, last month. There is a ‘caged bird’ in the episode but not as planned – that follows in the next episode. That case will unfold over the next few months.

Hence, the attached standalone short – Fettered Air. A departure from my Welsh police procedural, so your responses will interest me.

Fettered Air

I slide ski-swift across the winter’s blanket under the Blood Wolf’s Moon. Beside me the chicken-legged hut creak-crashes through the forest.

We’re alone in the taiga.

No sign of Baba Yaga. She’s vanished as have the denizens. No howling wolves. Nor snow leopard scents. No eagle-owl hoots. Nor honking swans. No ice-crawlers corpse feeding.

For nothing breathes in the wailing wind.

Yet, Nature writhes in pain, dragon’s bile dripping on her from mortal fangs.

I am Skaði. Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. Size is not the issue. Speed is.

The house is noisier, but we make a team. This hut can track her mistress better than even I, its feet scratching up clues, windows watching for signs.

Our mission came from Svetovid, seer and guardian god – and we had no choice.

“Find Baba Yaga before this world rebels.”

Why me, a giantess from Jötunheimr? Because neither Odin nor Thor will ask me ever since the marital strife with my spouse, Njörðr.

“Nobody else volunteered,” added Svetovid. “Besides those deities I posted on separate operations.”

He’s as secretive as my Vanir and Aesir brethren. Not just Loki plays with intelligence. Our trickster-thief and clown has too many imitators.

“Others are missing?” I asked, expecting evasion.

“Find Baba Yaga. That’s all.”

So, a need-to-know answer means Skaði is disposable. Nothing has changed.

Am I that terrible?

I had my reasons for smashing my husband’s sand sculptures. The whale-way was a prison with seabirds flaunting freedom.

But he called my majestic mountain retreat a dreary cell. “I’m trapped here. I can’t ski or snowboard like you.” He ranted and ripped down my hunting trophies.

“Skadi Hunting in the Mountains” (1901) by H. L. M – Foster, Mary H. 1901. Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology. Silver, Burdett and Company

Marriage dissolved.

Thus, I get the menial tasks. Unless Odin sends his ravens or wolves with heart-baits.

Not this occasion. A telepathic eagle with four heads.  

“Find Baba Yaga.” Svetovid’s orders resound in my brain.

The wilderness wrestles promethium chains. That is enough reason to pursue the quarry.

So we scour Siberia.

The creak-crashing hut spins above the earth-coat. We have the crone’s spoor. 

Calls and cries clamour on the snow-breath.

Ahead a green clearing by a lake glows bright. Invisible to vicious human eyes, but I see the torches, tents and throng bridging the veils.

Baba has parked her mortar by a host of other vehicles, one that is familiar – my stepdaughter’s pantherine-drawn chariot.

With groans and creaks, the chicken-legs spin the hut to a halt by the pestle-guarded mortar. Shutters slam shut. A fence of human bones topped with skulls encircles them.

My gaze shoots arrows at the polytheistic conclave nobody invited me to.

Goddesses gathered from the Nine Realms. They have abandoned their posts to feast. Brews flow, dice roll and deities chatter. Everyone distracted as Midgard clamours for release.

Baba knocks back vodka, cackling to another crone – Hecate, clutching a goatskin of wine. Their dice are corpse-stones, and Hel’s are soul-vessels. 

Are they oblivious to the desolation? Among the feasting, denizen envoys are airing their anxiety.  

My pounding heart settles. Mind muses past irritable white-out.

Not all the deities are wizen and wild in their attire and behaviour. Some goddesses appear serious.

Freyja, stepdaughter and party animal rises – statuesque and sober, despite her goblet of mead.

Her eyes seize mine as she silences the symposium.

“Sisters, the snow-dancer is here. The world cries, and we have battle-sweat to spill. But when shall we three score meet again?”

“When the chaos is banished, when the spear-din is won,” Hel replies.

I add my voice, realising their design. “Ere midnight. After the sleep of the blade claims those flouting our laws.” Faces flash in my head. I smile. “Nature’s justice must wield the icicle of blood against false leaders poisoning life.”

My sisters nod. Creatures yowl.

Freyja smiles and summons her champions. “I come, Durga and Adrastea. We have fangs to extract.”
Her pantherines roar in response.

We will shatter the fetters on Nature. No more will humans build cages entrapping our laughter and song.

Yes, this is my #WEP/IWSG post for June so part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG ChallengeThis a standalone short, although Skaði appears in my novel Eagle Passage, which I wrote the first draft of for NaNoWriMo 2016.

Word Count 660: FCA

Comments are welcome as usual and the following applies:

#MyInvisibleMS – Rising above My MS

Thursday May 30th, 2019, marks World MS Day, an opportunity for the global community to come together, share stories, and increase awareness about what living with multiple sclerosis (MS) is really like.

The sun is shining, and I can see blue sky outside, so let’s start with the positives.

I might have retired early but now have time to write more fiction – and at my own speed. Fewer deadlines mean less stress.

I get to spend more time with my wife, our dogs and cats, and with my stepfamily. Some family even help us around the house and garden.

My MS symptoms are sporadic and, in some ways, less severe than for others with MS or other chronic diseases. Much of the time, I can ignore them and attempt to get a few things done – like writing and chilling.

I can stay up late – playing computer games – and stay in bed without having to go to work. My schedule and not some magazine’s or newspaper’s.

Relaxation

However, I can’t ignore the invisible nature of MS – even if many do. I’m in a wheelchair so no longer invisible – just an obstacle blocking the aisle or sidewalk. But I wish people would realise my brain still works – well, most of the time but in weird ways.

MS creates a brain fog. I struggle with thoughts, finding my words – lost or jumbled. Thinking can be as hit or miss as writing or speaking. I stumble through this confusion and fall often.

Falling is a fear extending to the physical. When I walked, I stumbled and fell. Now, when I transfer to and from my wheelchair, the danger has changed – somewhat. I still hit the floor hard though. And my wife can’t pick me up so has to call for help.

Is the MS my fault? The truth is none of us sufferers have MS because of some bad habit or poor lifestyle choice. Some things might trigger symptoms – like stress or noise – but there is no known cause. This strikes many different people with varying lifestyles.

I ate organic vegetarian food mostly, didn’t smoke, or drink often. My work wasn’t more stressful than some. But my health dice came up with MS – and leukaemia.

Meeting others with MS, or reading about them, made me realise our symptoms can differ – hence the ‘multiple’. The course of the disease, the speed and the intensity vary. So, our treatments are as diverse as our symptoms.

Symptoms are chronic, debilitating, and so much more intense than others understand. Fatigue strikes fast and not always when I plan to nap. This is not tired in the normal sense.

My emotions flare as well. I get angry over stupid things, from emails to computer games. And the tears flow with regular ease – from pleasure, frustration, from sadness. Intense noise grates, like dogs barking or kids screaming. Sensory overload is a daily hazard.

My internal thermostat is faulty. Most of the time I’m cold but I can overheat, especially in warm, muggy weather. Damp or humid weather don’t suit – even if I miss wet Wales. The sea breeze there dispelled the dampness.

The medical approach to MS, especially here in the US, leans heavily towards keeping the pharmaceutical companies in business, rather than a cure. Disease modifiers – not that I got those with the NHS postcode lottery – are the norm. But there isn’t an acceptable one for my secondary progressive MS. Under neither system was medical marijuana an option for me – well, not legally in Idaho.

But the medical research has brought benefits and relief to many. Those newly diagnosed have choices I didn’t. There is hope out there.

However, people still believe MS is a death sentence – it is not. We are perhaps vulnerable to other conditions as our immune system is compromised. That doesn’t mean MS will kill me. So, don’t count on inheriting yet, brother.

But it is a life sentence. Emphasis on LIFE! The inspirational people with MS tell me “there’s a lot of it to be lived after diagnosis”. I have plans and things to do – like publish the Snowdon Shadows series; and that’s four books and ideas churning.

Whatever condition gets rolled for us, we are warriors and life is precious so worth fighting for.

Visibility

The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) is encouraging family members, caregivers, and patients affected by multiple sclerosis to participate in World MS Day today. Each year, MSIF, which now includes dozens of MS organizations worldwide, launches a campaign focused on a different theme to mark the day. This year’s theme is Visibility. Called “My Invisible MS” (#MyInvisibleMS), the 2019 campaign is geared toward raising awareness of the invisible symptoms of MS, and their hidden impact on the quality of life of MS patients, their family members, and caregivers.

Other Multiple Sclerosis links for today:

Selma Blair and MS https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a26532498/selma-blair-ms-gma-interview-spasmodic-dysphonia/

Positive Living with MS https://positivelivingwithms.com/2019/05/30/i-am-not-multiple-sclerosis-and-have-not-been-misdiagnosed/

MS On My Mind https://www.msisonmymind.com/what-is-ms-on-my-mind

Kindled Casket

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/

Here is the continuation of my Jewel Box story featuring Detective Constable Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police. I posted the opening on April 17th as O for Obstructions – Part 15 0f Azure Spark: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/04/17/o-for-obstructions-azure-spark-part-15/

However, I revised it slightly when I edited ‘Azure Spark’ at the end of April – https://rolandclarke.com/2019/04/17/o-for-obstructions-azure-spark-part-15/ . I intended to continue the story for the June WEP/IWSG Challenge but have something else for ‘Caged Bird’.

Rose Gold Pendant –http://celticandwelshjewellery.co.uk/product/rose-gold-pendant-26/

Kindled Casket

Saturday 1st August 2015 – Early Morning

Swimming settles hangovers.

Kama and I race out of the swell and across the sands of Morfa Bychan beach.

“Your turn to make breakfast, cariad,” she says as I overtake her. “Your full Welsh to prepare us for work. Ffion will await us bright and eager.”

We sprint towards our cottage. “Even if our DI was partying late at our party. I’ll have no excuse to not confront my backlog.”

Resolved one crime – dozens more emerging. Plus, the never-ending paperwork. Stifle the sinking stomach. This is the price of criminal detection with CID.

Bacon, sausages, mushrooms, eggs, cockles and laver bread sets up the day.

Cloudless weather boosts our motorbike ride to Porthmadog.

The paper on my desk has spread overnight. My Email in-box has overflowed again. Fight through this. Make space for the arson.

In forty minutes, I can focus on the case file.

Two conflicting reports on the incident lead. Liam’s forensic analysis suggests arson. Although, Fire Officer Anwyl’s notes claim it was a traffic accident. Did I count on any support from my brother?

No.

Yet, both mention ‘excessive petroleum splashes’. However, Liam detected traces of a silvery powdery crumb that was not a firefighting residue.

P for Petroleum and Powder. A reason to tackle Owen at the Caernarfon fire station.

I scan the ‘unrelated jewel thefts’ – low value pieces. There are mixed reports from uniform colleagues. Three statements are meticulous, but the other two are vague. No arrests. Just familiar suspects – including Poulsen Leach.

My tattoos set my skin tingling, and my fingers tapping my bracer.

Hugh Arbuthnot, the gift shop owner, accused his son-in-law of ‘mixing in shady circles’.

Poulsen’s record includes a spell in gaol and fines. Further, it shares a name with uniform’s suspicions. Despite this, we have not recovered any stolen items – yet. Not even at known fences.

A for Arbuthnot, Accusations, Arson and Accomplices.

S for Suspects – and for Suspicious. SAP.

Too S for Simple. Delve deeper and search sideways. Interview Poulsen and his wife, Olivia as she ran Y Bocs. Check if someone stole the 4×4.

*

I power along the A487 towards Caernarfon, gritting my teeth. Owen. Can I work with him, even with the approval of DI Ffion Baines? I must. He agreed to meet on the phone. Since he wanted me investigating. Why?

I park alongside the two-storey fire station, answers vying for dominance. My head throbs in time with my churning guts. Relax. Breathe. He’s like a fellow officer.

“Meinwen, let’s talk over a drink.” He smiles as he meets me at reception. Relaxed and confidant. “We have a great café nearby – not instant muck.”

He shows me back outside and nods at the black motorcycle. “Still a biker. No changes then.”

“Another major incident resolved. On to our burnt-out shop inquiry so I need your help. Why can’t we chat in your office?”

“I’m done arguing in front of my teammates.” He gestures to a red North Wales Fire and Rescue van. “Besides, we’ve family issues to discuss.”

The conversation I don’t need today. The usual blame. You were tad’s favourite. Meinwen did this…

“As long as we still review the arson case.”

*

The coffee is fresh brewed, and the brownie is a decadent treat.

“Talk, brawd dewr,” I say, forcing a grin.

He continues in our mother tongue. “Did our tad want you in the force over me? I never knew.”

The question he should have asked tad before he died. Owen buries his anger – but it’s simmering.

Don’t feed it. “No. He was scared whoever followed him into the police might have family problems like—”

“—him and mam, but that came later. In your mid teens, you were talking about joining—”

“—the force? I was only a vigilante.” I sip the rich brew, searching for a path around the sleeping flames. “That’s what tad called the Goth Patrol – before he inspired us. He must have dropped hints to your class too.”

He sputters. “Community service lectures – from every single emergency service. I never realised tad was behind those.” His turn to bury himself in his mug, then take a final swig.

I order more coffee – without tempting chocolate brownies. Will our chat end the sibling rivalry?

“That road traffic accident might not be arson. I presume you read my exhaustive report.”

I switch into case gear. “Yes. Our forensic guys agree with the ‘excessive petroleum splashes’. What could cause those in your experience?”

“A leaking petrol container.” He hesitates, rapping his knuckles together. “If the vehicle reached the right-hand side of the shop. I’ll run a test back at the station. Maybe a simulation. A smash-raid requires speed to damage the fuel tank.”

“Although, wasn’t it half inside the shopfront?”

Owen nods. “And not all the splatters were there. The raiders might have incinerated the car to destroy its identity.”

“We can still trace it.” If someone from NWP hasn’t yet run a search. “Our senior forensics guy, Liam Rhys detected the remains of a white dust. Not drugs or a harmless household product. Did you take a sample?”

My brother stares at me, eyes ablaze. “You accusing us of missing evidence? The powder is our dry chemical agent, stupid. I will send your Rhys what he needs to strike that off your suspicions, Meinwen.” He drains his coffee and stands. “I need to get back and investigate other incidents – pressing ones.”

Dismissed again. I follow him to the van. We don’t speak until we reach his workplace.

He smoulders as he parks, then slams his door when he gets out. “Thus, a smash-raid gone wrong. Your thieves torched the vehicle and caused a fire – not arson. I’ll put your forensics guy right and you can close your file.”

No fond farewell. He stalks away as if renewing our absurd rivalry.

R for Rivalry and Ram-raid. A for Arson and Anger. P for Petrol and Powder.

RAP sheet or PAR for our relationship?

If I add E for Evidence and Excuses, then PARE. Shave off the distracting details, for now.

I dial Forensics as I walk to my Kawasaki Ninja.

“Thanks Liam, for the detailed report on Y Bocs – The Jewel Box crime scene. I’ve just talked with the Fire Investigator – my evasive brother. He insists that the crumb was their chemical agent.”

“A chemical, but an unidentified incendiary.”

Why is Owen ignoring blatant evidence? To provoke or obstruct me? Petty most likely. Does he expect us to do his work? Although, he’s a professional.

“He’ll send you a specimen. Can you help find the actual powder?”

He chuckles. “On it. I’ll email you my conclusion.”

The station doors open and one appliance leaves heading towards town.

“Any identification found on the vehicle used? Or was it too badly torched?”

“The perpetrators tried to erase the plates and other marks. But not thoroughly enough. The 4×4 was a 2012 Dacia Duster registered to Poulsen Leach – reported stolen a week before the fire.”

My heartbeat rises, but tattoos sting. More convenient evidence – more questions for Poulsen and Olivia.

*

Half-an-hour weaving through lunchtime traffic focuses my racing mind.

Kama points at the new row of post-its across my desk. “Compliments of your friends stuck in this hot office. Enjoy.” She winks and takes half. “I desire you home early tonight.”

“For one of your tasty Tamil treats. As you’re cooking.”

More emails too – including Liam’s analysis of the crumb.

Material is an industry standard pyrotechnic flash powder composed of aluminium dust and potassium perchlorate. The natural colour is dark grey, but someone doctored this composition. Hence, it simulates the dry fire suppressant. Look for a pyrotechnician.

As Executive Producer of Oriole Productions, Hugh B Arbuthnot has the special effects contacts. So, the means to frame the son-in-law he belittles.
Too obvious?

R for Ram-raid and Relations. U for Unreal and Used. F for Flash and Film. A for Accusations and Arson. D for Dacia Duster and Deception.

FRAUD. By who?

**

The List – flash fiction

I have been following and voting in WRITE CLUB 2019 and voting on the excellent final 30 entries in the Preliminary rounds. I plan to continue voting in subsequent rounds hoping my favourites win.

I submitted an entry – under a pen-name – but did not reach the standard of other entries. Re-reading my submission, I know why.

But what do you think? Should I have used this for the April WEP/IWSG Challenge, Jewel Box? All critiques and comments welcome.

THE LIST

by Zilarrezko Ezpata

Supercilious servants seldom deserve attention when they thrust a drab packet into my hands. Howsoever, this maid is incessantly thus. Why her mistress accepts her insolence vexes me. I accept the delivery but offer no acknowledgement and send the servant on her way, back to my sister-in-law’s house on Harrison Boulevard. My man can convey my response.

Locking out the oppressive heat behind the front door, I walk across the tiled hallway. The package is lighter than expected. Dreary plays my brother intends for his conjectured theater, or native artifacts I will capitalize? My throat constricts but my mind exalts.

I discard the brown paper as I carry the tawdry ivory-inlaid box contained within to the maple desk in my tranquil sanctuary.

Placed inside the ruby-red interior are ten jewelry cases that flush my body in warmth. A sealed message lies on top. The wax has an imprint, but somehow blurred.

Intentional? Never. Made in haste.

My heart beat rises. Profit beckons. My stomach flutters.

Fingers caress the soft vellum envelope. I falter at the unusual leopard-spotted variety but dismiss an irrational image. The perfume pervading the room banishes the remembrance. I break the seal.

 Only my love, Arantxa dabs Angel’s Trumpet on her missives.

A precious and profitable attachment.

My spirit soars on pounding beats, body burning.

Zigor

I return the gifts you used to seduce me, without success. Unlike base men such as you, I am neither a heart-cheater nor a soul-thief.

Herewith, the moonstone pendant. You promised a diamond as in the book, but that was beyond you. Why didn’t I take heed then?

The crude cameo locket that will never be me. Not even an old-fashioned eye portrait. My eyes are blue not black.

The Art nouveau enameled barrette affronted me.

One pearl earring shed like a tear, the other dust. You are the dream-crusher.

Did you intend the amethyst bracelet to enslave me?

The faux emerald and sapphire choker? Tighter than a scoundrel’s purse. My breeding detects peridot and topaz so as paltry as you.

The rough-cut ruby brooch that drew more than my blood. Why the deceit with a mere red garnet?

Perchance, the diamond necklace you locked around my neck meant aught. But never was I gulled by your growing falsehoods.

Can a lie-weaver ever repent? No, thus I spurned this silver band stolen from some naïve conquest.

Only overreached by the gold ring that never engaged my soul or eyes.

I am smothered by her two-faced words.

My head whirls, and my mouth burns. Confused, I stagger to my armchair. I read her last lines.

This blood-lined box that holds your cheap baubles, unfit to grace this lady.

Finally, the Palouse colt. Or what remains of him—the vellum produced from his skin.

And his gore spilled in your name.

Hark the Devil’s Trumpet as you perish.

https://www.ways2gogreenblog.com/2009/09/03/be-forewarned-about-the-datura-inoxia-devils-trumpet-flower/

**

Let me know what you like and dislike about this flawed piece of flash fiction, please.