All the livelong day and other stories – Mick Herron

A complete list of all of my Mick Herron related writing is here.

And that was her own true self talking, or the person she liked to believe was her own true self; the decent liberal who’d be the first to flare up when ignorant bigotry was aired. Although it was also true that the flaring up mostly happened on the inside-was mostly, indeed, a kind of seething–which rarely found external expression. She was good at raging after the event, at pinpointing exactly the moment when she should have made her voice heard.

In 2013 Mick Herron released All the Livelong Day and other stories, a collection of five short stories he had written over the past decade. Three of them had already appeared in Ellery Queen Magazine and two revisit Joe Silverman and Zoë Boehm, the reluctant duo that run a detective agency together, who were featured in his Oxford series of mysteries. It’s a tight little collection with only one story that feels a bit too writer workshop-y.

All the livelong day

The first story is also in my mind the weakest although it does include the quote above. A couple with a marriage on the rocks goes on a hike through the Derbyshire countryside as another way to avoid their real problems. It explores how the everyday can become frightening when you’re out of your natural element and the fragility of those things you depend on for strength. Herron successfully creates a real sense of dread over the course of the story but ends with more of a fizzle than a bang.

The Usual Santas

The Usual Santas is, unsurprisingly, a Christmas story. It’s set on Christmas Eve in a giant mall that has eight rotating Santas working through the season. After the mall closes, the Santas gather to celebrate the end of another year of hearing children’s wishes and putting up with the elves. However complications ensue when a ninth Santa shows up. Can the Santas figure out who this interloper is?

Herron uses his signature humor to take modern culture’s consumerism to task while still providing a story that leaves you feeling good about the holiday. In addition to this collection, it’s the titular story in Soho Press’s Christmas collection featuring a who’s who of crime writers.

Proof of love

The first of two stories featuring detectives Joe Silverman and Zoë Boehm, Proof of love gives us a sense of Joe and what makes him tick. He has a high moral code that can be summed up by “What Would Marlowe Do?” which hurts him as much as it helps. This makes for a nice contrast with Zoë who is, for all of Joe’s WWMD?, more of the hard boiled, jaded detective.

In this story a rich man asks Joe to be the go between passing cash to a blackmailer with information about his new young wife’s past. Joe is also tasked with figuring out the blackmailer’s identity. Joe takes it on himself to give his wealthy client what he needs but not necessarily what he wants. Zoë drops in to provide some much needed perspective on the case. This is a solid mystery and perfect for the short story form.

Mirror images

This story has Joe and Zoë taking the unusual case of determining why a serial murderer is haunted by his first victim. As is typical, Joe clings to the romantic aspects of their client’s request while Zoë takes a more cynical approach. The story is fun but once the central conceit is revealed it loses its momentum.

Lost luggage

Lost luggage is to my mind the best of the five stories. A couple in the early stages of their romance has a flirty conversation while nearby a young woman fights for her life. Herron quickly sketches out two recognizable and relatable characters and their realistic banter which brings the looming danger even more into focus. Herron excels at humor and hazard; when he puts the two together it’s a thrilling combination.

Collecting

The book was only released in the UK and apparently had both a hardcover and paperback release, as well as a large print edition. The book must have had a limited print run as copies sell for an extraordinary amount. I was lucky to get myself a inexpensive ex-library large print copy for reading but, at least right now, collectible editions are quite expensive.

Conclusion

All the livelong day and other stories is a quick read but worth it for Herron fans. I found the final story made the whole collection worth picking up.

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