What’s Duet all about?:
In the second story in this collection, Kate Mosse draws the reader into what appears to be a conversation between two men about some suspicious goings-on in a rented building in the 1960’s.
What did I think?:
There are a couple of things that I love about this short story collection so far. First, a lovely black and white photo/illustration which captures the setting is provided at the beginning of each tale – for Duet it appears to be a dark set of cellar stairs with some objects lying haphazardly at the bottom which lead away from a door which is itself slightly ajar. It is entitled Pinewalk Heights, Bournemouth, October 1965 and sets the mood beautifully before we even start reading. Secondly, the author provides a little note at the end of each story which describes her reasoning and inspiration behind writing the narrative. Unfortunately, I can’t talk too much about this particular author note as it would immediately give away all the story’s secrets and I believe some magic has to be found by reading this specific story yourself!
It did take me a bit longer than usual to get into the swing of things with Duet but once I realised what the author had been doing, (luckily I didn’t see it coming until the end, I love to be surprised) I was pleasantly stunned and admired both the writing style and the build-up of tension that was present from the beginning right through to the end. As the reader, we are witnessing a conversation between two men, one of them appearing to be the superior or the “questioner,” who is trying to get some information from a previous tenant of a boarding house owned by a Mrs Nash. From the very first line, I decided that something decidedly unsavoury had been going on – “It was the smell,” is a bit of a giveaway and he appears to be a very shifty character that is definitely withholding some vital information.
Our questioner is being both gentle and at times, harsh with the man he is quizzing. They appear to have had this conversation or “duet,” as he calls it a few times now and each time he attempts to extract more and more information so he can solve what turns out to be quite a grisly little mystery. So, the landlady of a building, Mrs Nash has been quite concerned as one of her other tenants (known only to us as Turner) has upped and left without warning. She has removed his effects to a cardboard box and placed it out in the hall and she wants our shifty man’s help to remove the box from the hall into the cellar. He seems to be a bit reluctant to help out with this task though – wonder why?
The techniques that the questioner uses vary throughout the tale depending on whether he has previously heard the information or not. At times, he sympathises with the man by repeating his words and imitating his movements. Then he might shake things up a bit by changing the tone of his voice or surprising him with a question he hasn’t asked previously. Clearly, his impatience is waning and he wants to get to the bottom of what went on with the landlady, the former tenant Turner and this curious smell… which might be coming from the disappearing tenant Turner’s personal effects – it smells quite sweet, like oranges. Just when there appears to be a break-through however, the two are interrupted and the reader is brought crashing down to earth with a shocking revelation.
I loved the way in which Kate Mosse used a conversation between two quite odd characters which slowly dribbled out small details about a mystery/crime to immediately attract my attention and piqued my curiosity as to what on earth was going on. The build-up is done very well and I certainly was not expecting the ending. Once you understand what has happened, the clues are left quite cleverly within the narrative if you decide to go back for a re-read, like I did. I was surprised not only with the ending but how much I enjoyed the story as a whole and as a work of short fiction, it does exactly what it should to hook you at the start and keep you reading until the end.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors