Dead End by Craig Faustus Buck

Dead End by Craig Faustus Buck
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (13 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Johno Beltran is a former homicide detective who fell from grace when a stupid mistake allowed a rich, sadistic sex killer to go free. When the notorious murderer drives into the restaurant parking lot where Johno now works as a valet, their reunion leads Johno down a dark, twisty road toward a deadly collision between paranoia and reality.

Sometimes karma takes a long time to catch up with someone. Is it ever acceptable to artificially speed up the process?

Imagine running into your arch nemesis years after he ruined your life. Johno’s reaction to seeing Vico enjoy the pleasures of wealth and success was a fascinating introduction to both characters. I could feel the tension between them mount as Johno makes a series of impulsive decisions that alter both men’s lives forever. I was surprised by how quickly and thoroughly Johno’s personality is revealed. Within the first few pages I knew he was impulsive, vengeful, and a little arrogant despite him spending most of that time alone.

At first I was puzzled by certain details in Johno’s explanation of how he came to know Vico. The clues seemed to conflict with each other at first, and it wasn’t until the end of this tale that I realized what was really going on.

In the end everything makes sense, though, and once I reread it I noticed a clue or two that I’d missed the first time around. I was not expecting to spend so much time figuring out the twist. It was pleasantly surprising to be so stumped by what I thought would be a straightforward case. This piece could have easily been expanded into a novella or series of short stories for the purpose of further developing secondary characters and exploring the rich backstory that is mentioned only briefly, but Dead End works well as it is written. While I don’t know if the author has any plans to do so, I would be quite interested in revisiting Johno’s point of view again in the future.

Dead End kept me guessing. This book is a great choice for anyone who like the intellectual challenge of deciphering a series of subtle clues in a short timespan.


  1. I just wanted to let my readers know that this story was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Short Story 2013. Winners will be announced on November 15 at Bouchercon 2014.

  2. The story in Dead End continues in Psycho Logic, a novella published by the Stark Raving Group in May, 2014. As of this writing, it’s available on and soon everywhere if Ingram ever gets its act together.

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