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Morgen’s story review no.162 – OxCrimes 18: Louise Welsh’s Reflections in Unna

21 Mar

Today’s book review of a single short story (the eighteenth in the 27-story charity crime anthology OxCrimes collection) is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.

I rarely read ‘proper’ books (paperbacks / hardbacks) and I’d wanted to read this collection for a while so bought it as a paperback so I could sit and read at least one short story a day. (I’m also writing short stories for competitions and submissions too and have sent three off in the last week!).

If you’d like your short story or writing guide reviewed, or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

The OxCrimes Collection

OxCrimesFor 2014, Oxfam and Profile Books have turned to crime in order to raise a further £200,000 for Oxfam’s work. OxCrimes is introduced by Ian Rankin and has been curated by Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, where it will be launched in May. The stellar cast of contributors will include Mark Billingham, Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Horowitz, Val McDermid, Peter James, Adrian McKinty, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh and a host of other compelling suspects. Profile Books have raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Oxfam by publishing OxTales (2009) and OxTravels (9781846684968) (2011).

This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/OxCrimes-Introduced-Ian-Rankin-Ox-Tales-ebook/dp/B00IJKJTXW and http://www.amazon.com/OxCrimes-Introduced-Ian-Rankin-Ox-Tales-ebook/dp/B00IJKJTXW.

Review of Louise Welsh’s Reflections in Unna

This is a short short story (17 standard book pages) so a short review…

Story beginnings should hook or intrigue, and this certainly does the latter when we are told that it is Hugh’s job to ‘look, listen and record’.

I prefer dialogue to description and this starts with a lot of description but it is very vivid and engaging. I would have liked to have known which country we were in earlier. Gluwein made me think of Germany, especially when the shopkeeper is charging euros, but Ireland has euros too and Unna sounds Irish. The main character, Hugh, is at a Christmas market so could’ve been anywhere but eventually it’s revealed, by the name of the Ruhr area and some of the names used, that we are in Germany.

I’m not sure why but this story reminded me of Roald Dahl’s short story ‘Skin’ and it had the elements of a good Tales of the Unexpected.

We follow our main character, Hugh, around the city of Unna (which I googled to find was near Dortmund northern Germany near the Netherlands border) that he tries to escape with some precious cargo that he is being hunted for.

And now for writers…

– I’ve mentioned before about the lack of commas that can make certain sentences unclear, and we have a few here. The context is evident so it’s not the biggest mistake but anything that would make your reader pause is best avoided.

– Again we have sections where there are two people of the same gender where ‘he’, ‘she’ etc. could be confused. And example of this is, ‘Hugh recognised the cool tones of the stranger. He held the phone to his chest.’ The ‘he’ refers to Hugh but because we’ve just had the stranger mentioned, the reader would be forgiven for thinking that the ‘he’ refers to the stranger. Later on, there is mention of Hugh’s father and then the line ‘he was walking towards the ornately carved seats…’ In this case, ‘he’ could have referred to his father.

– It may not surprise you that – if you know my name means morning in German – that I am relatively familiar with the country (although I’d not heard of Unna so it proabably would have been better for Louise to choose a more familiar town / city). One of the sentences of the story is ‘Hugh almost lost his footing as he turned into – Strasse…’ And that is it exactly how it appears. I wondered whether the missing first name (‘Strasse’ means street) was intentional or perhaps something to be filled in later. Either way it was something that pulled me out of the story… again not a good thing.

– There are not very many clichés in this collection but we have one in this story: ‘stopped in his tracks’.

Conclusion

A short story packed with mystery and intrigue. Although the main character has flaws, we want him to be okay and successful by the end of the story. Speaking of the end of the story… Wow.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I shall be back tomorrow with my review of Peter Robinson’s People Just Don’t Listen, the nineteenth story in this collection.

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Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction CompetitionRONE 2015 Judge.

As well as a teacher of creative writing (and writing-related I.T.) for her local county council and online, Morgen will be one of five tutors at the 2017 Crime & Publishment alongside crime authors Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

Morgen’s first love is writing and she is a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on TwitterFacebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page) and has created five online writing groups. She also runs a free monthly 100-word writing competition where you can win her online creative writing courses!

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has nine others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service (free 1,000-word sample), and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.

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You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping Listvarious short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating. Thank you.

Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and for anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 21, 2016 in critique, ebooks, review, short stories, writing

 

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2 responses to “Morgen’s story review no.162 – OxCrimes 18: Louise Welsh’s Reflections in Unna

  1. kirizar

    March 21, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Quick question: I notice you did not quote the sections you were citing for he/he attribution ambiguity. May I ask whether it was a copyright issue or simply a time/space/energy issue?

     
    • morgenbailey

      March 22, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Hello kirizar. Definitely the latter. Normally I do quote the relevant phrase or sentence but overlooked it in this case. It’s an issue that I have often raised in these reviews and am doing so again with the current story I’m reading (Anne Zouroudi’s The Honey Trap) and will be including the passage. Thank you for reading and commenting.

       

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