"Second Ward" turned out to be an exciting, engrossing little tale! I wasn't sure about it at first, but I had to keep turning the page to find out what was going on. The ending won't surprise anyone, but the story was told in such a way that it was rewarding to finish! Read on for the good, the bad, and the breakdown.
Let's get the glitches out of the way first. None of these problems make "Second Ward" a bad story, or otherwise make you want to stop reading. Unless you're a writer or an English freak, these may not bother you in the least.
There are punctuation issues scattered through the story. A few pieces of dialogue ending with a ? or ! also have a trailing comma; some sentences are split by commas in awkward places and other sentences need to be broken up with commas (run-ons); and there were a few dangling phrases such as "...not that he would have."
In some parts, the characters were jumbled up with no clear idea of who was doing what; in other parts, the tense changed between past and present for no reason (particularly in the ending). A passage that illustrates this point: "Jason smelled onions and garlic as Joe clenches his teeth trying to straddle his legs..." No clear idea of who is straddling who, and the tense changes abruptly.
This is a tense, gripping story that makes you wonder what the heck is going on. At every point, there are little breadcrumbs of mystery; it is well-paced and makes you turn the page. You won't want to pause and bookmark while reading this one.
Some scenes are poignant and pregnant with sorrow. It's tough in a short story to make the reader identify and empathize with a character, but Mr. DeCoteau does just that--and more. If you're sentimental, you might feel a gush of sadness or a scream of horror creep up.
The point-of-view is tight and well-maintained. I've noticed this same quality about Robert's other work, as well. A lot of new or amateur writers have trouble maintaining perspective--Mr. D does it with ease. This keeps the story focused and engrossing. The reader likely doesn't realize how important this simple feat is to good writing.
The ending should have been predictable, but it really wasn't! Clues and pointers pop up in the story, allowing you to guess at the outcome; yet the author manages to keep you locked up with the main character long enough to distract you from that almost cliche conclusion--and that's a compliment! I don't know how he did it, but I am impressed. Despite the minor hiccups in the writing, "Second Ward" is well worth your time and your buck.
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)