Saturday, 29 July 2017

'The Undertaker's Boy'

I enjoyed Karen Turner's short, bittersweet contribution to Cold Iron. The story begins with one of the heftiest cliches in the business, though.

I'll say right at the outset, I don't believe in ghosts.

We all know that, in an anthology of ghost stories, there is only one way this can go. So why bother writing that as a first sentence? Oh well. The point is that Mr Barclay, the undertaker, gets a work experience kid from the local school. The boy, Adam, seems nice enough, but he soon puts his sensitive fingers to work by touching dead people. Then Adam tells Mr Barclay things that he couldn't possibly know about the dead. I particularly liked the environmentalist annoyed at being embalmed, as he wanted to decompose nice and quickly in his cardboard coffin.

The end of the story is as conventional as the beginning, but I was still pleasantly surprised by the twist. It works, which is what matters. And the author conveys a great deal of humane insight in a few pages. That counts for a lot, too.

So, another story down, but not out! More of this running review soon.

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