Just a quick shout-out to two intriguing pieces of short fiction I’ve read recently.
First, as a prequel to the just-released novel The Inquisitor’s Key, Jefferson Bass — the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Bill Bass — has released a stand-alone e-book short story, “Madonna and Corpse,” which follows French inspector René Descartes on the trail of an art conservator-turned-forger who pulls a switcheroo or two on a small museum in Avignon. The criminal here is as compelling as the inspector himself, and the fast-paced story offers fascinating insights into the world of art conservation and forgery. Here’s a quick excerpt from part two of the story:
Jacques Dubois dips a clean cloth in turpentine and drapes it across the painting, stretching and smoothing the fabric to remove all wrinkles. The white cloth—cut from an expensive linen bed sheet—is virtually transparent. Through the fine weave of fabric, as if behind a veil, a homely Virgin Mary cradles an even homelier Jesus. The baby’s head is far too small for his body, his face more like a middle-aged man’s than an infant’s, his body bizarrely muscled like a miniature weightlifter’s. Dubois smiles at the pair and murmurs, “Soon you will be so much prettier. You’ll thank me.”
In his early years, Dubois felt guilty about taking solvents or a heat gun to ancient paintings simply so that he could recycle an old canvas or wooden panel for his own works. By now, though, he knows he’s performing a service: ridding the world of mediocrities and replacing them with masterpieces. It’s as if he’s buying up dreadful shacks on spectacular lots, then knocking them down and erecting architectural gems in their stead.
“Madonna and Corpse” is available on Amazon for 99-cents (and I’m looking forward to the novel itself too).
Also intriguing is “The Prediction,” a new one-sentence story by Kama Falzoi Post at Smokelong Weekly — a tremendously rich story, finely crafted, and with a stunning little twist ending. No excerpt needed, of course; you can find the full story here. — Art Taylor