The Whole She-bang
Reviewed by Dorothy Johnston
What a great initiative for Toronto Sisters in Crime to have produced this collection. The Whole She-bang provides a treat for all lovers of crime fiction, with humour, sadness and a great deal of drama packed into 220 pages.
It’s extremely difficult to write a short story that contains the unravelling and solution to a crime, interesting characters and a moral challenge, and is satisfying in ten pages or less; but all the stories in this collection are polished and assured, and none leaves the reader hanging, with the feeling that the author had run out of words.
Amongst my favourites are: ‘A Ring for Jenny’, by Tracy L. Ward, which introduced me to Dr Peter Ainsley, defying his father’s wishes to work as a surgeon in Victorian England. Ainsley is immediately likeable, as well as being observant and intelligent. Not only does he solve the mystery of how Jenny died, but has the compassion to return what must have been a treasured possession.
A very short and very funny story is Lynne Murphy’s ‘The Troublemaker’, where a group of female residents at the Cottonwoods Condo find a way to outwit a very annoying busybody. Peter Kruger is fond of climbing into the Condo’s dumpsters to make sure the residents are recycling properly, and savaging plants under the pretext of pruning them. A planned ambush goes awry, but the women keep their cool.
‘Dying With Things Unsaid’ by N.J. Lindquist is a complex story about the secrets within families and between husbands and wives that can be kept for decades, to the keeper’s detriment. A secret of this sort rears up to confront Mary Kline at a time when she is dying of cancer, but mercifully the mystery is solved in time for a reconciliation.
‘Jackie’s Girls’ by Linda Niken is another humorous story about a group of former prostitutes meeting for a weekend and the way a plan to double cross backfires, while ‘Big Brother’ by Elizabeth Hosang ends with a well-engineered surprise twist.
All in all, a very readable collection.
*Dorothy Johnston is an Australian author of both literary and crime fiction, including a trio of detective novels set in Canberra, Australia’s national capital.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)