Review: The Short Man by Joshua Cejka

I made this author’s acquaintance through a Facebook NaNoWriMo support group. The group currently has 21,491 members, so it should not be close-knit, and yet the regular contributors have managed to grow into a very large (somewhat dysfunctional) family of writers. Many of the books I review will come from members of this group – I unfortunately do not have the time to spend right now on books that aren’t essential to my own works in progress, unless I’m already a fan of that author or were written by someone I know won’t waste my time.

As one of the admins of this group, Joshua Cejka is a prominent presence. It still took me too long to find and read his books, and I kick myself for that. At the time that I first read and reviewed “The Short Man”, I was not one of Joshua’s “friends”. After reading it, I made certain that I was.

The Short Man
OMGERD!! They arrest a squirrel! (No, it’s not the killer. Just a material witness who fled the scene before it could be questioned).

Joshua Cejka’s prose is a treat to read. The line I gave in the Amazon review above is just one of the many that tickled my brain and made me an instant fan. It’s clear that this is a man who not only knows how to write, but is a true fan of the roots of this genre, and of the English language.
This is a SHORT story (19 pages), and that was something that made it more approachable for me. As someone who gets a limited amount of time to read, I was able to sneak pages of this while my son was playing on the playground – essential because I could not put it down!

“The Short Man” is a lightning fast trip though one newly-minted detective’s deductive process, from crime to killer in record time. Megan Brown is a great character – her tough exterior is a scab over still-healing emotional wounds that are hinted at but never whined about. Meg is a woman full of a past that she doesn’t share, but that colors everything she says and does. She approaches the murder investigation like a SWAT pro – instantly sizing up the crime scene and hunting down the suspect without the usual cop drama filler.

I adore her partner, Riggins, with his unlit cigarette and stoic manner. He’s the grizzled hound to Brown’s bullish Rottweiler. And like a good seasoned old dog, he gives his partner free reign to fetch the murder back to him. He’s not stupid though – he’s a good cop who would have gotten there in the end using the traditional procedures. But working with Meg is teaching the old dog some new tricks.

The book is written in third-person Omniscient with just enough entrée into the character’s head to give color without the story getting bogged down in internal monologues or explanations of actions already flawlessly described.

There are some things I would change, some words here and there. But I’m in editing mode, so that’s what my brain is looking for. There are some genuine typos/grammar errors, but those don’t accumulate to the point of destroying my enjoyment in reading.

The one point that bugged my brain and continues to do so is the plausibility of an aspect of the plot. This book involves a shooting on the fringes of a college campus. Reading it in this post-everything world, it was hard to imagine that the entire campus would not be a hive of screaming, frantic students who had each gotten their personalized text message to get the hell out of Dodge. Instead this campus is calm, with students and faculty going about their every day. “The Short Man” was published June 27th, 2011, years after the Virginia Tech shooting (April 16, 2007) when school policies really began to change. There were several other university shootings in between, so that the school would not have gone into instant lock-down for a killing anywhere near it’s campuses was a little hard to believe.

I think part also that of my disconnect was caused by not being able to believe how very fast the story progresses – only a few class periods from response to solving the crime. In the story, after they realize there is a second homicide they talk about closing down the campus, but the story is resolved before that can happen.

Beyond that minor suspension of disbelief I found this to be a completely immersive and wonderfully written short story. I look forward to bringing you the reviews for the other five in this series that have been released and the one that will be published on Amazon shortly.

You can read this fun detective story yourself from AmazonAmazon for the (IMHO) bargain price of $0.99.


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