Friday, November 25, 2011

MONKEY JUSTICE by Patti Abbott

If you have even a passing interest in crime fiction, short stories or both, you need to go out and get Patti Abbott's Monkey Justice. It's only 99 cents this weekend. Crazy.

There's a tendency in modern crime writing to pare down character and setting to their essentials, and instead to focus on plot. Preferably plot with a lot of action.

Now I'll take this tendency any day of the week over bloated literary "stories" where nothing happens. But it's a double-edged sword -- strip away too much of that other stuff, and the writing loses some of its humanity.

This is just one of the ways Patti Abbott sets herself apart from the rest of the pack. Every story in here feels complete. At the end, you don't just know the protagonist, but you know at least one other character very well. The worlds they live in are believable and textured -- she simply knows what she's doing.

And every crime in each of these stories feels completely natural. She never introduces crime to move the story along -- it's just part of what these characters do. It's just one aspect of the story.

My favorite Abbott story is "Raising the Dead," which originally appeared in the now-defunct Back Alley. It's about how art (and success in art) can become an obsession. It's a suspenseful, gripping tale that depicts a character's evolution.

Several stories in Monkey Justice deal with abuse, and one of the most powerful stories she's written is "The Instruments of Their Desire," about old wounds that never healed. "Georgie" is also excellent, a heartbreaking piece told from the perspective of a child.

Before I got this collection I considered myself a big fan of Abbott's work. She has appeared in essentially every crime anthology worth reading in the last couple of years and in all the publications I read (Spinetingler, A Twist of Noir, Needle, Beat to a Pulp, All Due Respect, etc.).

And yet I'd only read three or four out of the 21 stories in here. Abbott is an amazingly productive and gifted writer, and this collection is testament to that fact.


  1. Thank you so much for these kind words, Chris. This was a wonderful Thanksgiving present. You are aces.

  2. I've been impressed by everything I've read by her.