Perfidia • 2006 • thriller novelette by Lewis Shiner

★★★★

Summary: On December 15, 1944, famous jazz musician Glen Miller disappeared over the English Channel on a flight between London and Paris. There are doubts on that official report and this story is telling a somewhat different tale.

Antiques collector Frank Delacorte won an ebay auction and finds out that it contains a wire recording from Glen Miller who plays his „Perfidia“ drunk in a Parisian whorehouse – only that it is taped three days after the mysterious flight. This would make it the discovery of the century and reveal a conspiracy of the U.S. Army to cover up Miller’s death. He sets out to trace back to the tape’s original owner and find evidence.

Review: I wasn’t able to put down those 40 pages, and they ended far too soon. Shiner used a straightforward, non-poetic narrative style with lots of details thrown in like the program’s name that was used to edit the records; you can easily take a walk of mind in his descriptions of picturesque antiques markets of Paris. He added several novelistic layers to the suspenseful thriller: a political exploration touching George W. Bush’s lies about the Iraq war comparable with Trump’s lies; a romantic affair; and links to his father’s background during WWII. It is certainly a different style than you might know from Shiner’s publications in Wild Cards or as a progenitor of cyberpunk with novels like Frontera – it isn’t SF at all but a contemporary thriller with only a hint of speculative fiction. As smoothly flowing as it is with believable characters you really care about, the relationship to Frank’s father and sister, and the uncovering of the central story, you’d have wished to read this as a longer novel. I recommend to let Shiner’s narrative power and imagination draw you in his Collected Stories.

Meta: isfdb. Published 2004 in the literary magazine Black Clock 2. Read in The Best of Subterranean. Available online.

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