Sunday, June 2, 2013

Scattered Light by Jean Rae Baxter; reviewed by by Phyllis Humby

A couple of years ago, a friend pressed a copy of the short story collection, A Twist of Malice, into my hands and said, “Jean Rae Baxter is an award-winning author from Hamilton, Ontario, and she writes dark stories. You’ll like her.”

My friend was right. There was evil, wrongdoing, and twisted little minds everywhere. Loved it! With each turn of the page, Baxter impressed me. Not only is Jean Rae Baxter an excellent writer, she’s a great storyteller. An unbeatable combination.

It occurs to me that part of my appreciation for Baxter’s work stems from the settings of her stories. Living in Ontario myself, I recognize the cities and towns and, admittedly, that familiarity gives the stories more credibility. A frightening thought.

I couldn’t wait for the release of Scattered Light, her latest collection of stories filled with murder and revenge. As much as I anticipated the new book, it was not a letdown, as is sometimes the case. Scattered Light is a good read from the first story "After Annabelle" to the last "RIP."

With impeccable pacing, she draws the reader into each story with juicy bits of background. A little at a time. Enough to whet appetites until the reader is near bursting with expectation, and Baxter doesn’t disappoint.

If I have to choose a favourite from the Scattered Light collection− and that’s not easy − it is "Her Ideal Man, Sublime." It was as if we were sitting together and Baxter was telling me this story. There I was, leaning forward with each word. Yes, I loved everything about it right down to the perfect ending. I didn’t clue in when she first mentioned Penetang. No, I missed that.

The characters make stories come alive. I don’t care what your plot is, if your characters don’t measure up, your story falls short.

Baxter not only has great characters, her stories are filled with detail with a capital D. I love Detail. How does she write riveting stories with great characters and voluminous detail in so few words? Not all writers can master the short story.

I enjoy her writing style, her way with words when describing characters, and the vivid pictures she paints. When I read, "stubble the colour of cigarette ash," the man’s face loomed in my vision.

If this book had not been a library copy, my yellow highlighter would have stroked through favourite words, phrases, and passages, to savour another time. Since downsizing, I have to be extremely selective on which books are keepers. Scattered Light is on my list to purchase.

If you are looking for amazing suspense and well-written crime fiction, Scattered Light should be on your list, too.

Scattered Light is available on-line here, and A Twist of Malice, here.

Phyllis Humby lives in rural Camlachie, Ontario, where she indulges in her passion for writing suspense/thriller novels. Her stories have appeared in Canada, The United States, and the UK. She writes a monthly opinion column, Up Close and Personal for First Monday magazine. Visit her blog, The Write Break here.  

Quick Brown Fox welcomes book reviews and other book related pieces. Quick Brown Fox also welcomes reviews of plays, movies, restaurants and anything else that catches your fancy. Reviews may be straight up or tongue in cheek. You might review restaurants you can’t afford, based on what you see peering through the window or otherwise use your imagination to get up to some mischief. Email your review to me at brianhenry@sympatico.ca
I'd especially like a review of The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan.

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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