Short Stories 366:198 — “The Natural Order of Things,” by Jess Faraday

coverIn Shadow of Justice, we’ve watched Constable Simon Pearce entertain the chance of something more than a quick dalliance, despite the realities facing him in late 1800’s London, and we’ve seen him find murder—and deliver justice—in London, Edinburgh, and then smaller villages of England, and that’s where we catch up with him in “The Natural Order of Things.” Simon has begun to settle, smoothly fitting in the life of a small village copper, and though that comes with bumps and bruises, he also has a lover in the next town over, and it seems like Simon is really, finally, starting to find a core happiness.

Then Jess Faraday throws another series of crimes Simon’s way, and tosses a spanner in the mix via a letter from Simon’s first real love. The story that follows—Simon trying to figure out who is behind a series of vandalisms against local wise women alongside typically narrow understandings of bible quotes—unfolds alongside his own emotional struggle as he tries to figure out how he feels about what he has now versus what he could, perhaps, possibly still have with the first person he loved. The mystery of the crime is well written, but I have to admit I cared more about Simon’s choice over whether or not he’d return to speak with his first, lost love.

I think the balances of these conflicting emotions are dealt with so well in Simon precisely because of the ride we’ve had so far in his head throughout all the stories. He’s matured enough to realize so much of his own disasters were of his own making, and he’s shy to pass on what is really a good thing, especially since running away and burning bridges was what led him down the wrong path to begin with. This time, he takes his time, considers things, and doesn’t react immediately and emotionally—and then makes his choice. I did wish for happier outcomes for everyone involved (which was more or less impossible) but Faraday writes characters with complex emotional baggage, and I believed the choices made.

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