LH Maynard and MPN Sims
Trade paper, $14.99
Review by Nickolas Cook
Most great ghost stories are inherently mysteries. There’s usually something, some kernel of forgotten emotion or knowledge, which the spirit(s) is trying to impart to the living. Double Act, Maynard and Sims’ novella offering from NYX Books, is no different. And unraveling the mystery behind this haunting is half the fun.
Walter Coker and Charlie Hess were once the toast of 1950s English theater, but when Charlie dies, he leaves his partner without an act and with lots of grim secrets. As Walter begins to uncover his dead partner’s secret lives, he also begins to question the meaning of his own existence, and the choices he’s made.
Maynard and Sims do a great job getting straight into the story from the first page, slipping in exposition and character development almost immediately, but more importantly, the conflict. Their combined style is one of alacrity with emotion, but never gets bogged down with too much exposition or emotion at once. Instead, you the reader, become a participant in Walter’s discoveries, and you might even figure out the ending before he does. They do a wonderful job of creeping up on the truth, using a few scares here and there, but never without logic. Their characters feel like the sort of aging folks you could run into on the street. You feel for them.
On a deeper level Double Act also becomes a story of an aging man who has nothing to show for all his years in entertainment, except bitterness over the choices he’s made and forlorn memories of his best days in the spotlight, quickly fading. Walter is well aware he was never the brains of the act, and he envies his deceased partner’s ability to keep the jokes coming, to make him look good at poor dead Charlie’s expense.
It was an impressive, quick read.
The only complaint I have is that the ending came very abruptly, and for me, left too many dangling threads. The end could have used some tightening up for closure’s sake. Otherwise, this was a damn near perfect little tale, guaranteed to send a shiver or two up your spine.
If you enjoy a good old style ghost story, then Double Act is for you.