The Darkest Shade of Grey
by Alan Baxter
Red Penny Papers (2012)
Red Penny Papers puts out some fun serialized stories, and their latest has been released as a complete novella available for purchase.
The story revolves around David Johanssen, a down-on-his-luck crime reporter who can read people's auras and glimpse moments from the pasts of the dead. While investigating the murder of a young woman in one of the rougher neighborhoods in a big Australian city, an old derelict approaches David on the street asking David to tell his story like he does for the dead. David brushes the guy off, his mind already muddied with the turmoils in his life, but the homeless man haunts him. And it's only when David finally confronts that he discovers the stranger is not the only one with a strange story to tell. And the investigation could either lead David to renewal or ruin.
This might be the first time I've read Alan's work. It's the first I can recall at any rate, and it was definitely a story that suited me well. The gritty, almost hard-boiled style of the story worked well with the escalating weirdness that kept heaping on the main character. I don't know if I could get away with calling it urban fantasy, but if I can, then it's certainly the kind of urban fantasy I like. The suspense doesn't really build until about the midway point when an ominous figure gets between David and his story. Then, things get really interesting.
The pace is a bit slow, but it's more character-driven than action-driven. The ending satisfies, though it requires a bit of charity by way of suspension of disbelief. I've got plenty of that to spare though, so it was no issue with me. Definitely a good find from Red Penny, and a nice introduction to Alan's work. If he's got more like this, I'll have to watch out for it.