What’s The Blood Pearl all about?:
The must-have annual anthology for every crime fiction fan – the year’s top new British short stories selected by leading crime critic Maxim Jakubowski. This great annual covers the full range of mystery fiction, from noir and hardboiled crime to ingenious puzzles and amateur sleuthing. Packed with top names like Colin Dexter, Christopher Fowler, Alexander McCall Smith, Robert Barnard, Peter James, Natasha Cooper, Sophie Hannah, and many more.
The Blood Pearl is the story of two old friends who are seeking revenge on a shady character who has swindled them in the past by some rather elaborate means.
What did I think?:
Barry Maitland is an Australian author of crime fiction born in Scotland. He studied architecture at Cambridge then retired in 2000 to write novels on a full-time basis. I’m not familiar with his work but this short story is probably my favourite in the collection so far. The Blood Pearl has two main characters, Ben and Paula who used to be good friends but haven’t seen each other until recently when they happen upon each other in a bar and begin talking about the past, in particular the close relationship that their small group of three couples shared. Ben recently split up with his partner, Terry had a sudden heart attack leaving his wife Alice alone with three children and now Paula shares that her husband committed suicide two months previously. Both Ben and Paula are incredibly bitter about the situation and attribute it towards a man called Derek Mankey, who ruined them all financially. Derek assured all the friends that they were “on to a good thing,” and it was only when they had given him every bit of money they possibly could that he fled, never to be seen again.
Then Paula confides in Ben that she knows where Derek is and invites him to be part of a plan she is concocting to ruin Derek in the same way that he has ruined them. It is obvious that Ben has always held a bit of a candle for Paula and he doesn’t take much persuading when she outlines the idea. Derek is currently making a lot of money in Australia by oyster farming in order to find beautiful and very valuable pearls in order to sell on the black market, and is now a very rich man because of this. However, if Paula and Ben manage to get out there and farm the oysters before Derek gets to them, not only will they both become very wealthy, but will manage to procure millions that would have potentially have been Derek’s. Sounds like sweet revenge? But….
Well, with a plan apparently this meticulous, there’s bound to be a “but,” and the two friends find it, and many more twists and turns than they both anticipate. In The Blood Pearl, Barry Maitland has created an exciting adventure story with more than its fair share of villains and mystery. I enjoyed the build-up which was certainly tense, and I love it when an author leaves the reader unsure of whom to trust in a plot that became quite complex. It’s a good addition to crime fiction, and I think generally fans of the genre will appreciate it but it left me feeling rather uncertain at the end. I’ve been trying to figure out why and I think it’s because I didn’t really find it very believable and the action sequences seemed a bit stilted and difficult at times. Saying that, I would still be interested to read more of this author’s work as I do think he has a talent for ramping up the pace in a plot.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Isabel Fish by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater