Time travel has always been a popular subject in our culture. From H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine through to current obsessions like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, this plot device has proven its ability to open up all kinds of possibilities. Back to the Future mined it for comedy, whereas Somewhere in Time focused on the romantic aspects. Recently, Barb Goffman had the brilliant idea to merge time travel with crime fiction in a new short story anthology collection. That work, which she edited is called Crime Travel and is now available. Along with Goffman herself, this collection features some of the strongest short story writers in the crime arena. Every story here is great, but here are a few details about my favorites which are sprinkled through the fine collection.
“Living On Borrowed Time” by Melissa H. Blaine
Melissa H. Blaine starts things out on a high note with a story that features time tourists. Just try to tell me this is not a concept that warrants deeper exploration. But first, this story in which some people from the future return in an effort to thwart the machinations of the worst serial killer in history. Blaine uses a clever method to track the “historical alterations” tampering with the past would undoubtedly cause. Towards the end of the story there is a nice reveal of diversity that is handled with grace and subtlety, simply woven-into the fabric of the plot, just as it should be.
“O Crime, In Thy Flight” by Eleanor Cawood Jones
Eleanor Cawood Jones crafts a story where the all-to-typical domestic squabbles are complicated by the wife’s unique abilities. Charlotte can find lost things, but she is about to discover that her special talent can morph into a more complex and useful skill, making her mundane home-life all the more thrilling. Jones keeps things moving by weaving in a number of crimes, but the heart and soul of this piece is the character of Charlotte.
“Hard Return” by Art Taylor
It is no secret that Art Taylor is one of my favorite short story writers ever and he does not disappoint in this collection. While it is true that courtships are always complicated, when you add the element of time travel, things are bound to get really messy. When a man’s date recounts a particularly harrowing past experience, his desire to help might just become his worst decision yet. The two characters at the core of this story come to life, drawing readers into their issues as the tension increases. Art Taylor has never been one to sugarcoat his endings, so be prepared.
“Love, Or Something Like It” by Michael Bracken
Michael Bracken’s story moves back and forth through time with three important focus years. That would be challenging even in a longer work, but here it demonstrates how Bracken has mastered short-form fiction – this is the shortest story in the collection. In the tale, a scientist expands the bounds of his research for some very personal reasons. Every word counts here and it’s a pleasure to watch as a skilled practitioner hooks the reader and unspools a fully-formed plot in just a matter of a few pages.
“Reyna” by David Dean
This is the story of a wheelchair-bound young girl who discovers she has been given a gift after her recent accident. This power may allow her to save others – strangers, as well as her own family – and just maybe, herself. David Dean’s story is my favorite in this collection! The writing is tight and the structure well crafted, but probably its two strongest elements are the clever plotting and vivid characterization of Reyna, which dares readers not to be empathetic with her plight. This is a story I won’t soon forget and hope to see on some award short-lists in the coming months.
“And Then There Were Paradoxes” by Cathy Wiley
Two British Inspectors stumble upon a locked room mystery worthy of Dame Agatha herself. Fortunately, they might just get a chance to consult with the legendary mistress of crime directly. Historically accurate information on Agatha Christie adds verisimilitude to the theoretically sound use of time travel within this highly enjoyable tale. Readers will find themselves returning to this one again and again in the future.
“Alex’s Choice” by Barb Goffman
In this tale from a true short story guru (remember, Barb also edited this collection), a child’s toy becomes a conduit to wish fulfillment for young Alex – but the options are never easy. This tender story will tug at the heartstrings, as readers are whisked back to the more carefree days of childhood, when the harsh realities of life are not yet known. You can rest assured that Goffman is not going to make this an easy journey, so keep the tissues close. Fans know that Barb is a huge animal lover and that affection comes to the forefront in this touching story.
Donna Andrews provides a quick introduction to this collection, adding to the pedigree of this strong anthology. Regardless of their specific interests, all lovers of crime fiction will find a story in this collection to which they can connect. The fantastical element of time travel allows a multitude of tones, styles, and sub-genres to be explored. During this holiday season, when reading time is limited, keep Crime Travel handy so that you can enjoy a new story every now and then. You won’t be sorry you did.
Order your copy from Wildside Press in hardcover, paperback, or e-book – or wherever you regularly shop for books.
Disclaimer: A egalley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.