As you might recall back in March I talked about what it means to review writing and why it’s so important. As part of that, I shared that in April I would be the impartial judge in a writing competition for the Empty Pages Writing Club. Everyone submitted up to 30 pages of anonymous text to be read, critiqued, and ranked with their peers.
I read these stories and ranked them according to Plot/Conflict, Setting, Character, Symbolism/Theme, Point of View, and Writing Style. Each category was worth up to 5 points meaning a story could earn up to 30 points total. Stories have been read, reviewed, and ranked– and now it’s time to talk about the stories!
For my other Empty Pages short story reviews, check out:
Title: 103PB-1930-35-1117: Just a Drive in the Country Length: 19 pages Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
As I mentioned in my previous post, Madness of the Midnight and 103PB-1930-35-1117: Just A Drive in the Country both tied with a score of 20/30. I didn’t want there to be a tie for 2nd, so I ranked this story higher after considering which story I enjoyed reading more overall. There was something about this story, title ignored, which really spoke to me. I felt invested in the characters and the direction of the story. I wanted to keep reading and discover the whodunit! A brief and refreshing change; I really enjoyed sitting down to read 103PB-1930-35-1117: Just A Drive in the Country.
Peter Blacksyte is on his way from London to Bath to see his betrothed when the storm hits. An unsafe torrential downpour, Blacksyte has no choice but to pull over for the night when he spies an old public house. Inside he meets the barman and a fellow stranded passenger, Eβlinger. Warmed and content with food and drink, the three don’t expect to be visited by a 6-year-old girl stumbling in from the rain. Suddenly, a mystery is afoot! Why is Emory wandering alone at night? Why can’t her parents be reached? Who is this mysterious man to comes to pick up Emory with her nanny? Blacksyte and Eβlinger feel compelled to find out…
While the plot takes a few pages to truly begin to unfold, I was immediately hooked. There’s nothing like a good mystery to get the blood running! In hindsight, the conflict was easy to see, but as I read it I was uncertain the direction this story would take. I appreciate the dramatic tension and how the setting contributed to intensifying our conflict. We had a little bit of internal conflict, but I would have appreciated more. That said, due to the mystery genre nature, I didn’t feel like it was lacking. I was so wrapped up in the external conflict it did not matter.
Yet, in the end, I just wanted all the loose ends neatly tied off. The author did not do that for me. While many readers appreciate how real that feels, it’s not my cup of tea. But I still loved every tense moment!
As I mentioned above, the moody atmosphere really added to the dramatic tension. I loved that. All of the descriptions were appropriate and not overly done. I find that happens often in mysteries; elaborate descriptions help distract us from obvious clues. Not so in this story. I also appreciated the date stamps. The measurement of time helped me understand the internal processing of the characters, though it did make me wish this had been an epistolary story.
I wanted so much more from these characters! They were well-developed enough that I cared about them (even to the point where I got emotional at the ending), but I had so many character-focused questions unanswered by the end of the story. I wanted to know more about some character motivations and backgrounds. There were tons of characters, and I think they all belonged, but in 20 pages only so much can be said about them. Perhaps if the story was a bit longer…
Point of View: 4/5
Written in 3rd person dramatic from the perspective of Blacksyte, I really appreciated the perspective that gave me as a reader. Blacksyte an outsider, so everything is just as unique and new to him as it is to the reader. This drew me in and captured my attention. It felt real. The only thing I struggled with in his PoV is I felt it could have better utilized to show us his emotional reactions, or used Blacksyte as a foil for some of the other characters. Overall, this was the right perspective but I think it could be improved a bit.
For me, this is where the story lacked the most. In mysteries, it’s fun to look for symbols and foreshadowing potential. These allow the reader to figure out whodunit! Alas, the story ended without most of our mystery solved. Without many symbols (other than our mood-setting devices at the beginning), I was left wondering more than I would have liked at the end of the story. There wasn’t a whole lot for me to even speculate on after the story was over.
But the theme was clear: Life is precious. You never know when something can take life away from us.
Writing Style: 3/5
This story was so easy to read and quite engaging! I found myself interested in all the details and constantly looking for more. I also appreciate the epistolary-esque style of this writing. It is formatted as a solicitor’s (lawyer’s) report. I do love epistolary stories…
Sadly, there were a number of typos and grammatical mistakes. I’m not particularly worried about this issue in the long run, this wasn’t an ARC or anything, but it did distract from my enjoyment overall.
Overall Score: 20/30
A fun and suspenseful historical mystery, I really enjoyed reading 103PB-1930-35-1117: Just a Drive in the Country. The format worked well for me as journal-like entries from a report. I loved the characters, setting, and conflict. I only wanted a bit more from everything! Particularly around tying up some of the loose ends. I have dreams that this is one of many archived reports which will be compiled together in a collection. Together, all these reports will give us a picture into all the seedy, dark mysteries happening in the Marlborough area. One can dream, can’t I?
What Do You Think?
- Do you enjoy reading stories where there are leftover loose ends? Why or why not?
- Which genre do you enjoy more: mysteries or historical fiction? What about historical mysteries compared to contemporary mysteries?
- Have you ever come across typos or gramamatical errors in your reading? How does that make you feel? How do you react to that?