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