I’ve read both of Glen Barrera’s action-packed books, The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance and A Capable and Wide Revenge. He’s shown himself to be quite a wordsmith when it comes to describing the explosive fight scenes in both books. In the short story he contributes to the Twisted Tales anthology, The Burglar, he proves his skill with words extends beyond battle scenes.
Within the first two paragraphs of this story I was hooked. Compelled to find out why a two hundred and fifty pound man was wrestling with an animal I sped ahead on what promised to be a shocker of a tale.
The rather bulky Harold Aly has been unemployed for almost a year and a half and had only a couple of weeks left to receive unemployment checks. His wife Carol is very unhappy about this and justifiably resents being the sole bread winner in the household. Basically there is every indication Harold is a somewhat lazy guy who prefers rising late, watching television, eating, playing computer games, and walking the family dog. In spite of his protests to the contrary he has done little to find gainful employment. When, at thirty-five years of age, Carol threatens to kick him to the curb he comes up with a plan to make some easy income.
Believing in the phrase “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line”, Harold decides to burglarize the home of an old woman. This isn’t just any old woman in a haphazard shack on the poor side of town. While walking the dog he spies the old woman tending her garden in front of a large, older Victorian home. Harold is no idiot. He chooses the house thoughtfully and even has plans for disposing of any ill gotten gains through a less than honest friend.
Barrera’s use of Harold’s inner narrative is superb. Following his somewhat twisted mind as he assembles both his plan and the tools to implement it I couldn’t help but admire his forethought.
However as the Scots say, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Some things can’t be foreseen. There is a definite surprise waiting for Harold. Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, it does. Barrera saves the biggest surprise of all for his unsuspecting readers.
Well written, with a delightful building of tension, Barrera takes the reader to the edge, takes a step back, then pushes her over the edge. If you don’t find yourself saying “Oh hell no!” when you read the final sentence in the story, you have stronger nerves than I do. Don’t cheat and peek ahead. The build-up is too good to simply scan.