It's not often you run into a short story collection that ends on a cliffhanger, but that's exactly how David Bain chose to go out with his book THE CASTLETON FILES.
This slim volume collects in one place Bain's five short stories featuring his "slightly psychic" detective, ex-US Marshall Will Castleton of Green River, IL, now from Chicago. What began as an accidental series character for the author has turned into a passion and I read this book in anticipation of getting to read his first Will Castleton novel DEATH SIGHT. I have to say upfront Bain is a friend of mine for several years, but this review isn't about him. I've read works from many writer friends and didn't feel compelled to review it. So why this time? Because I believe in Will Castleton.
For only containing 4 short stories and 1 novella, David Bain really creates a well-rounded character with a very full history, almost none of which we actually experience with him because in the course of these stories, he's got other things to deal with obviously, but the way Bain allows Castleton's stories to unfold so naturally, none of the backstory mentioned feels the least bit forced, and it all just serves to endear us even more to this character.
And the stories themselves run the gamut of psychic fare. In "Island Ghosts", Will is on sabbatical after a particularly hard case, only to find himself smack in the middle of an unintentional case when he suddenly has a flash of someone on the island where he's staying and feels compelled to track her down, hopefully in time.
In "The Bridge", Will helps an old man reconnect with the ghost of his troubled foster son, while in "Samantha", Will helps an ex-con come to terms with the secrets of his past and, hopefully, help put some very unquiet spirits to rest.
The novella "Homeward Devils" sees Will return to Green River, the place of his birth and very familiar stomping grounds to devoted Bainheads, where our hero puts his skills to use with a foreboding dream which he uses to help stop a dangerous criminal from his past. And finally in "Nighteyes", will is enlisted to help a psychic girl who is being tormented nightly by otherworldly beings bent on consuming her spirit. And then we get to that dmned cliffhanger.
I am not pleased with that cliffhanger.
Will Castleton is a great character, drawn with obvious affection by the author and there's just enough of the everyman in him, despite his occupations past and present and his extra gifts, to help him connect really well with readers.
The stories fly by without a dull moment, thanks to Bain's mastery of the craft--and, I don't doubt, also to his past in the newspaper business--and the collection as a whole serves as the perfect introduction to a character the author promises is "in for a long, thrilling ride", as he has plans for several novels all of which take place between the events of this collection. I'm glad I got to spend some time getting to know Will before I read his novel, and I'm very much looking forward to each and every adventure.