Burning Desire and Other Stories by Marilyn Todd

Burning Desire and Other Stories by Marilyn Todd
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Passions run high in this sparkling collection from what Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine describes as “one of the best mystery short story writers of her generation.”

From shy insurance clerks obsessed with a stripper (Pirate of Penance) to wives plotting murder (Killing Kevin), there’s always a twist in the tail. Like harmless old beachcombers (The Old Man and the Seashore) and good-time girls finding that respectability isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (Long Slow Dance Through the Passage of Time), even magicians’ assistants (Saw Point), they’re all driven by a burning desire.

And be it for justice or greed, retribution or love, the flames burn hotter than hell.

First impressions can only go so far.

“Night Crossing” involved an angry woman named Chloris who was running away from a bad marriage and a man who was paid to ferry her far away from where she came from. I can’t go into much more detail about this one without giving away spoilers, but I enjoyed the descriptions of what warm night air feels like as summer ends and everyone knows colder weather will soon arrive. It’s the sort of fleeting moment that feels like it will last forever when it’s actually happening, and it enhanced the mystery nicely.

I struggled to connect with some of the stories in this collection because of how often they jumped around from one idea or setting to the next. “The Girl Who Walked on Rooftops” was one example of this. It was written as a conversation between two old friends who eventually reveal a huge secret to the audience. One sentence was set in the present, while the next would often reference something that happened decades ago. I had trouble piecing together all of the clues here and wished everything had been revealed more chronologically.

Dolly, the main character of “Long Slow Dance Through the Passage of Time,” intrigued me from the first line. She was so materialistic, charming, oblivious to her flaws and ignorant of what others truly thought of her that I couldn’t imagine what might happen to her next. Writing villains isn’t always easy, but Ms. Todd did a good job of balancing out Dolly’s beauty and ability to make a fantastic first impression with the dark aspects of this character’s personality that were always gliding around below the surface.

Burning Desire and Other Stories was full of surprises.

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