Short Stories 366:146 — “The Star-Crossed Lovers,” by Jess Faraday

coverThere is no one way to be a writer, and there is no one set of advice a writer should or could follow, and one aspect of this I always find amusing to share with other writers is just how often I have no title for a piece, even long after it hits a final draft. Inevitably, about one in three of the writers I admit this to says some variation of “I can’t write without a title.” That’s my long-winded way of saying how much I love the title of this story from Jess Faraday, found in Shadow of Justice, and the one-two-three-four punch it represents in the story.

We come back to Simon Pearce, still in Edinburgh, still navigating what has now become a two-month relationship with Cal, a medical student, and still uneasy and unsure about how to even begin to do so given his position as a constable and the reality of the time and who they are: the late eighteen hundreds, and a pair of gay men, respectively. Faraday does a really great job of slipping into Simon’s mind here, and the borderline naiveté he displays about relationships makes total sense for a man who has, prior to this point, managed clandestine meetings at best. He’s a copper in a time when being himself can get him arrested. It’s a lot to face down.

So when a date with Cal to witness an Egyptian display of two mummies (a man and his “companion,” another man) is interrupted by an explosion, the discovery of murder, and an ever-more complex series of revelations about the museum staff and their relationships, Simon throws himself into the task of figuring out who is responsible. That it also deflects his attention from whatever he did wrong that has upset Cal is certainly a plus for Simon, but the reader spends as much time hoping Simon will solve that particular mystery as he does the actual murder. And the one-two-three-four punch reference of the title? Well, I won’t ruin that, but again, I tip my hat.

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