Trouble in Mind: The Collected Stories, Volume 3
There may be among some readers a bit of hesitancy to pick up a volume of short(er) fiction written by authors who are best known almost exclusively for their novel-length works. While this reticence might be understandable, it is misplaced where Jeffery Deaver is concerned. Deaver brings his A-game to everything he does (I picture him meticulously composing his shopping list, which, I would be willing to wager, is interesting as all get-out), and his short stories are no exception. TROUBLE IN MIND is Deaver’s third collection of his short work (following TWISTED and MORE TWISTED). It is an addictive experience, to say the least, full of surprises and twists and turns of many different sorts, all of it shot through with the superior tradecraft to which Deaver demands of himself.
The stories collected for TROUBLE IN MIND are culled from a number of sources, ranging from original hardcover anthologies to eBooks and including a pair of stories seeing publication for the first time in any form. Where does one start? With a Lincoln Rhyme story, of course --- actually two of them: “A Textbook Case,” which was first published as an eBook, and “The Obit,” in which it appears that the unthinkable has happened. As the comic books used to say, “The Obit” is not a dream story or a “what if” tale, but it’s one that will surprise you nonetheless. Kathryn Dance? She is represented here as well with “Fast,” which originally saw publication in the eBook TRIPLE THREAT. Longtime Deaver fans will also remember John Pellam, who appears here after much too long an absence in “Paradice” (again from TRIPLE THREAT). You know those stories are going to be good.
"It is an addictive experience, to say the least, full of surprises and twists and turns of many different sorts, all of it shot through with the superior tradecraft to which Deaver demands of himself."
The remainder of the stand-alone shorter works are worth reading first. There is a story titled “Reconciliation,” one of two seeing publication for the first time, about a man on a work assignment who reluctantly returns to his hometown after an extended absence and confronts --- and resolves --- his roiling familial memories. I kept waiting for the cranial bear trap to trip during “Reconciliation,” and trip it did, though not in the way I expected.
“The Bump” was another pleasure, a story that surprisingly enough does not involve a crime. Actually, that is not totally accurate. The twists and turns of criminal enterprise are nothing as compared to those of reality television, and this story about a high-stakes poker game with a group of once-popular actors, rappers and comedians as participants is first-rate, solid in every way. “The Bump” is one of the longer stories here, although the paragraphs and pages simply fly by. Among the shorter works in the collection, though no less worthy, is “The Plot,” in which a New York homicide detective investigates the apparently natural death of his favorite mystery author, much to the chagrin of both the scribe’s widow and his writing partner.
My favorite story has to be “Game,” also from TRIPLE THREAT. It concerns a wealthy widow who is targeted by an aggressively cheerful mother-and-son con team who moves into one of her apartments and then into her life. A private investigator named Eddie Caruso is brought into the matter by the woman’s housekeeper, and what he ultimately discovers surprises even him. Note to J.D.: I would love to see more of Caruso in some way, shape or form, if you would be so inclined.
TROUBLE IN MIND does not supplement Deaver’s main body of work; it is a valuable documentation of it. For those who need an introduction to his work, this book is the perfect entryway; for those who have been with the man since the beginning (or nearly so), it will find a permanent place in your literary collection and memory.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 7, 2014