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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #182, September 17, 2015

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #182, September 17, 2015

"Murder Goes Hungry" by Margaret Ronald

"Flying the Coop" by Jack Nicholls

Reviewed by Chuck Rothman

Margaret Ronald's "Murder Goes Hungry" has a title right out of a detective story, because that's what it is. Swifty is one of a group of ex-soldiers from a war in a fantasy world, convalescing in the equivalent of a convent. His friend Halliwell is a victim of "hungry grass," which magically gives you an intense hunger, making you eat ravenously of nonliving material like dirt and rocks. Halliwell is trying to recover when another of the veterans is found dead, with him being the main suspect. Swifty has to try to clear his friend despite all the clues pointing to his guilt. It's an interesting attempt to include a mystery in a fantasy setting. There is some excellent characterization, and a reasonable solution.

Though certainly well worked out, the main issue with "Flying the Coop" by Jack Nicholls is a lack of surprise. Nadia Dnaiilovna's father has died, but the funeral has to be postponed because Grandmother Yaga's hut (a house on two chicken legs, where a witch lived, according to the Russian legend) is outside the door. The hut follows and harasses her and Nadia realizes that Grandmother Yaga has died. She tries to follow in the footsteps of her father as a dealer in furs, but is thwarted by the hut. It seems pretty clear early on where this is going, and Nadia is just a fairly standard plucky young woman.


Chuck Rothman's novels Staroamer's Fate and Syron's Fate were recently republished by Fantastic Books. His Plotting War is out as a Kindle Short Read and he has a story upcoming in flashfictiononline.com.