There’s a new JJ Stoner short story out this week. If you haven’t yet met this complicated contract killer then there’s just time to enjoy the first five quick thrillers in this anthology. Guest reviewer MD Ironz sidesteps any spoilers to describe his first encounter with ‘a man without apparent qualms of conscience’…
I have read and re-read the short stories of the Stoner series. I found reading twice especially helpful since, as an American, I’m not intuitively familiar with some of the idioms, colloquialisms, and slang in use in the UK. While some references were more easily understood via context, I must admit others left me momentarily confused, necessitating an occasional Google search.
Thus more adequately informed and suitably bolstered, the second reading allowed me to more fully appreciate the characteristic flow of the narrative — a damned good thing, too, because once started one cannot put any of these tales down.
These stories stand alone on their own merit; but I confess I couldn’t help but see them played out in the theater of my mind as a series of interconnected acts in a gritty black and white film noir, its ethereal sense of resolution dangling just beyond the grasp of the anxious audience. Man, what a screenplay this would make — or a graphic novel! Hmm, maybe too graphic; but alas, that’s another discussion.
There’s a raw, yet honed edge to the character of JJ Stoner, a man without apparent qualms or conscience, driven by a personal code appreciated by only a select few, and often underestimated by most. In First Contract, he’s manipulated — more than once — yet remains stoic, the reader understanding there will be an accounting.
In Two Wrongs, Stoner morphs into a support role for a newly introduced protagonist, MCPO Stretch McCann, of whom the reader will come to recognize as a competent contemporary and occasional companion when mission circumstances dictate a two-operative approach. The over-arching threat of the Boston Irishman thrusts Stoner back into the role of concerned protagonist.
Third Person is a surprise departure from the foregoing narrative style — a new POV, crafted in first person (no pun intended), present tense, a worthy challenge indeed. Yet, it works quite well. Bernadette of the Garda; yes, we suspect we’ll see more of her.
Four Cornered brings known characters together in certain anticipated, and unanticipated, ways. It is difficult to discuss without revealing spoilers, so I’ll demure. Suffice to say, the reveal in the final scene did surprise me… yet, maybe it shouldn’t have.
Fifth Columnist puts Stoner back into a support role. Alas, another tale that proscribes too much discussion for fear of the inevitable spoilers. However, I must say the twist at the end is superb.
Special Relationship has a climatic undercurrent, and the character list grows. However, it does not resolve the overall story arc—the Boston Irishman. I’ll admit I didn’t really want it to end.
The excerpt from the full-length novel, The Corruption of Chastity… What can I say? The excerpt was particularly disturbing—I realize that was the intent. The graphic violence serves its intended purpose; but it will put some readers off.
I am not among them.
Reviewed by MD Ironz
The Stoner Stories is available at Amazon as a paperback or ebook
Coming soon: Six Strings, the new JJ Stoner short story