Mhairi Simpson is a pal and fellow writer – we knock about writing ideas together, but this was the first time I’d read any of her completed work. Would I find this 8,000 word story as compelling as the idea she had outlined to me?
After thirty years hunting demons, the Hunter needs just two more. Two more dead demons and the family debt will be repaid. But when an old friend gets in the way, she must make a choice: to save him or her honour.
Written in first person POV, the inhuman protagonist is tracking a vicious murderer and Simpson immediately pulled me into her world. Her snappy writing style and vivid depiction of the crime scene, along with the dilemma facing the Hunter had me turning the pages, wanting to discover what would happen next. It takes a great deal more skill to write a successful short story than it does to write a novel – many bestselling, readable novels can get away with thin characterisation, or clunky dialogue, so long as the author provides a sufficiently compelling storyline. However, in a short story if the character isn’t convincing; or the backdrop sufficiently developed; or the dialogue sharp and realistic; or the storyline strong with a satisfying ending – then it fails. There simply isn’t time to compensate for such shortfalls in writing technique in a short story.
Simpson manages to fully deliver – the Hunter’s reliance on her sense of smell gave the story an intriguing feeling of ‘other’ that is always important when creating an alien character. The increasing tension as Hunter struggles to track down the perpetrator of a gory murder, with the frozen park providing an excellent backdrop to the action, provides narrative tension in spades.
I’m not going to discuss the ending, other than to say that it worked and left me wanting a lot more from this world. A superb slice of writing.