Slices of Night

Written by JT Ellison, Alex Kava and Erica Spindler–Slices of Night is a novella co-written by the authors JT Ellison, Alex Kava and Erica Spindler that traces a serial killer as he travels the country claiming victims. The authors use three separate locations and detectives to tell different yet interconnected stories.

The Missing and the Gone by Erica Spindler opens the collected novella. New Orleans detective Stacy Killian arrives on the scene of a murder which has just occurred at Cabildo, a historic site located in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter. The victim is a young homeless woman who has been precisely stabbed resulting in her death. Killian has recently suffered a personal tragedy and is preoccupied as she works the crime scene.

The opening scene is strong and Spindler’s writing makes the story feel big and cinematic. Using Killian’s personal struggle adds an emotional immediacy that builds an instant and somewhat heavy-handed backstory.

The murdered young woman has stains on her shirt that aren’t blood. Upon closer inspection, they turn out to be breast milk. The victim is a new mother and the question, besides how did this happen, becomes where is her baby?

Spindler wastes no time getting into the heart of the story as detective Killian tries to track down both the murderer and the baby. The story is framed with Killian’s personal struggle and this adds weight to this short tale, though it slides towards melodrama.

Blood Sugar Baby by JT Ellison is the second contribution. It opens with an unnamed salesman sitting in a car in Nashville, Tennessee. He is watching a woman. You quickly realise that the man is our murderer and you are at his side as he is about to strike again.

His next victim turns out to be an Occupy Nashville protester who is left at the steps of the War Memorial Auditorium. Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is put on the case and the body is identified as Virginia ‘Go-Go’ Dunham, the daughter of a healthcare millionaire. Ellison builds drama by alternating chapters between Jackson and the work she is doing on Go-Go’s case and those from the perspective of the killer. The creepiness of following him around is a nice touch and adds a much-needed suspense to the story.

The author works well in the confined space of a short story and adds a strong middle section to the novella. The story uses details well and builds the world quickly and believably, but some of these threads aren’t complete actualised and you are a lot goes unanswered. The middle section is strong and adds good suspense even if it is somewhat predictable and the author takes on more than she can handle and fully develop in the short chapter.

Cold Metal Night by Alex Kava is the third piece of the puzzle and with it we jump to Omaha, Nebraska. The victim this time is a man who is found in an alley as a security team does a sweep prior to a winter holiday fair. FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell is given the case and Kava job, as the closing writer, is to weave all three plot lines together. The last story is consistent with the other two and Kava does a nice job, but the writing is only good enough and Kava’s piece feels a little too neat for the ending to be completely satisfying.

Slices of Night is a fun project, a good gimmick, that feels congruent, despite there being three different authors. The various locations and characters make this an intricate story for such a slim volume. The book is an easy and plot driven read.

The book uses very basic procedural writing with a neat concept to drive a simple and predictable set of interconnected stories. The three pieces all zip along, with little wasted, but there is nothing here that really stands out. Recommended if you want a well-plotted procedural mystery that’s quick to read and enjoy.

For more short stories based around a concept, you’ve got to check out In Sunlight or In Shadow.

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CFL Rating: 3 Stars

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