Simon Wood knows suspense.
All of the seven stories in this collection kick into hyperspace real quick. Wood throws you out of a plane with an anvil strapped to your back . . . or another, better metaphor.
My personal favorite is A Break in the Old Routine, which fully embraces the thriller genre. Sam is taking the subway to a meeting where he will pitch a big advertising campaign when he notices a ridiculously hot girl is, for some reason, checking him out. She approaches him as they get off the subway and nearly begs him to get a coffee. Like every other wishful dude, Sam obliges.
But he gets into hot water when he finds out that a violent man is following his love interest. The climax is perfectly executed--I was racing to find out what happened and whether Sam would be able to escape his predicament. And Wood knew exactly when to stop, not filling up the ending with a bunch of epilogue.
Parental Control is another standout and demonstrates how ethical questions can be explored through suspense. (On a related subject, if you have read Ken Bruen's awesome post over at Mulholland Books, you should.) In this story, the uber-successful Preston shows his neighbor how to give the kind "tough love" kids need. His version of tough love is probably more like an insane behaviorist's experiment. But if your kid was a gang member, like Preston's was, how far would you go to "reinforce" the right behavior?
The other four short stories are also solid (My Father's Secret won the Anthony in 2007) and highlight Wood's ability to craft speedy, satisfying short works. A novella, The Fall Guy, rounds out the collection with the adventures of epic loser Todd Collins, who is launched into a world of pain after he bangs up the wrong guy's Porsche.
You can find this WORKING STIFFS for $2.39 for the Kindle edition and $2.99 on Smashwords.