'Matricide and Ice Cream' by William Burton McCormick, #DealMeIn2020

It’s not about the actual story, but my Lord, my local library’s e-catalogue sucks ass. Unfortunately it doesn’t suck in the kind of way that would make for an interesting anecdote here, just one of the long meandering ‘… and then I needed to download another app, which of course takes forever, before I could even- hey, are you even listening?’ ones.

Spoilers, you would not be listening. It was very dull. It was even more tedious to live through. This is why libraries are struggling. Forget all the arguments about time poverty, poverty-poverty, accessibility & the difficulties out-competing the multinationals. It’s all due to the clunky IT system that requires me to enter a 16 digit ID code instead of letting me sign up with the exact same email address they already have. The one they asked me to provide for poorly explained ‘marketing reasons’. Nobody knows our library card numbers off by heart, app designers.

I won’t go so far as to say that ‘Matricide & Ice Cream’ made the whole ordeal worthwhile but if all the other stories in this anthology (that took me five hours to download, because – again – getting an e-book from my local library turns out to be the absolute pits) are this good, I’ll maybe reconsider.

The card I pulled was the 5 of Diamonds, which was one of the later stories in the CWA ‘Mystery Tour’ anthology. I’ve never read anything by McCormick before but his detective, Santa Ezerina, feels like an established character who just stepped off the pages of her own series, ready to bring the murderer to justice.

Milo Capela and his mother are travelling through Europe together so she can meet his beautiful fiancee, Vika. Unfortunately for Milo, his mother has decided that she will no longer pay to support him and Vika both. Fortunately for Milo, his mother is already very sick and was advised not to travel, and the temperature inside the train continues to climb. Milo has a plan.

The story opens with Milo already having resolved to murder his mother, and he sets about acquiring the necessary tools and promptly disposes of her, then cleans up the crime scene so thoroughly it’s hard to believe that anyone could ever suspect foul play. The murder method itself, which I won’t spoil here, was different but still felt very possible (which I say as someone who knows very little about Soviet ice cream, admittedly), and Milo’s narration offered a certain uneasy cunning. Yes, of course, killing your mother’s bad and all that – but damn, that’s definitely clever.

Of course even Milo can’t outsmart a young woman with a beagle and a keen interest in ice cream packets. As I’m not familiar with Santa Ezerina, I admit I didn’t recognise her as a detective at first – it seemed as though she may have just been another passenger, taken in by Milo’s lies. She soon proved me wrong, poking at Milo’s story and asking exactly the right sort of awkward questions that he would have preferred not to answer.

The resolution, however, feels a little abrupt, with the revelation that Santa has already suspected the murder method (again, I don’t want to spoil this but I cannot stress how very far from my assumptions this would have been. Like, not even in the same postcode) since she first saw Milo. Again, I’m not an expert in Soviet ice cream and it might be perfectly plausible that you would see a sick dog and smell something weird and immediately come to this conclusion. But I definitely would not have done, and while I know there are some constraints in writing short mystery stories and with Milo as our narrator we aren’t privy to any of our detective’s reasoning, I wasn’t entirely convinced that she would have known straight away. That said, it doesn’t cheapen the ending for me – Santa’s method of poking at Milo until he finally cracked and we see him react with genuine anger instead of performing his very calculated and methodical murder is very satisfying, and the ending feels entirely deserved.

This short story was great fun and I really enjoyed reading it. I’m definitely going to add the author to my TBR pile

11 thoughts on “'Matricide and Ice Cream' by William Burton McCormick, #DealMeIn2020

  1. Sorry to hear of all your woes regarding the library. Similar experiences have led me to mostly use my library as a place to read, rather than getting my books from there. My city’s central public library branch has also become something of a refuge for the homeless. Many ‘patrons’ I see every time I go there seem to be just getting out of the cold or hot weather.

    Your story this week reminded me of the Hitchcock Movie “Strangers on a Train”. Sounds like a fun one too. Santa Ezerina certainly sounds like a memorable character!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s a shame your library doesn’t have more books but I’m a little jealous you can still sit and read there! My local library’s very small and the only seats are by the computer or in the toddlers section – I used to be able to spend hours in the library but these days my closest branch feels like it doesn’t really want anyone to linger.

      Funnily enough, the whole time I was reading this I was thinking about the Danny Devito film, ‘Throw Mamma Off The Train’. It made for a fun read!

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      1. I must admit I thought a little about Throw Mama From the Train too as I was reading your post. Also, I like your graphic with the all the suits and books at the top of your post. Did you create that yourself and may I use it sometimes too? πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks! One of my favorite parts of Deal Me In is all the creative tweaks that other bloggers do. One year, one Deal Me In participant would add a video of a magic trick using the card she drew that week, which I thought was brilliant ! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That sounds amazing! I’m definitely not on her level but I really like the card drawing element – it’s such a fun way to introduce an element of chance to what you might be reading πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Welcome to Deal Me In!

    Oof, I’m feeling very grateful for my library system now. The funny thing is, the online catalog has an option to set a user name to sign in with, but I still use my library card number, which I had emailed to myself years ago and copy/paste every time I log in. …*shrug*

    Heh, the card trick videos were more a product of watching waaay too many card tricks than any creative impulse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’m glad to be here πŸ™‚

      Ha, emailing yourself the number would have been a lot more sensible than the option I went with, which was a lot of swearing and counting the long string of zeroes over and over again until they all blurred together… My library system seems to be quite slow when it comes to adopting technology in general – a combination of low funding and local demographics making it less of a priority, I think.

      Ooh, you were the one behind the card tricks? That sounded like such a cool idea! Did you learn them specifically for Deal Me In or were you already interested in magic?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, no, *I* didn’t do the card tricks; I just linked to professionals doing them. I became interested in magic about 7-8 years ago, especially magic history. Alas, I am a bad liar and don’t have the time to learn much beyond a decent riffle shuffle.

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      2. Oh, that makes sense! My granddad was an amateur magician so I grew up with a lot of books on magic or practicing card tricks or disappearing sugar lumps to see if I could get good enough to fool him – I never really managed it but he used to let me think I was πŸ™‚

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