Have you ever felt as if your entire life was spinning out of control?  Where absolutely nothing was going right and everything you touched turned to stone?  A gloomy cloud overhead which virtually follows your every move.  All of your relationships- family, work, friends- in a state of disarray and despair.  What can a person actually do to reverse such a situation and thus bring hope and clarity back to their life?  The stark truth of the matter is that there really is no “one” answer to such a question.  People have their individual coping methods and what works for one person may not succeed for the next.  In his short story A Fine Death, author Walter Rice presents just such a predicament.  Nevertheless, don’t be fooled.  This is not a tale about finding appropriate coping methods so one can enjoy a happy life.  It is however a shrewd and sinister look at the inner workings of the human psyche.  For those readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries which explore the complexity and fragility of the human mind…this one is a top pick!

A Fine Death focuses upon the life and struggles of the main character, Ed Keegan.  He has been going through some very tough times in his life.  These hardships culminated in the loss of his wife who left him for an “idiot stockbroker.”  Feeling as if everything is spiraling out of control, Keegan is determined to get control of his life back.  He soon turns to purging and clearing all the clutter from his house as the answer.  Perhaps this purge can give him a new start and cleanse his painful memories?  Who knows, maybe his wife will even choose to come back to the “new” him?  Unfortunately, Keegan soon discovers that the more items he removes from his house, the more obsessed he becomes in his quest to get rid of everything.  Not only that, but his anger continues to mount and he aggressively targets anyone who gets in his way.  Will Keegan be able to stop this downward spiral which has taken on a life of its own?  Or has the real pain and hardship only just begun?

I found the plot of this story to be very thought provoking and engaging.  There are a few different themes which run throughout the tale, but that of revenge is the most prominent.  Indeed, the powerful and all-consuming nature of revenge is clearly illustrated in the story and certainly makes the case that living well is ultimately the best type of revenge to have.  Alas, a lesson which Keegan does not learn.  The thrilling and suspenseful story-line will keep the reader engrossed throughout the tale.  We are able to witness the battle Keegan is having with himself within his psyche.  As the reader, we step back and watch in awe.  The fragility of the human mind is on display for all to see and creates a powerful atmosphere of suspense as we wonder which way Keegan will turn.

As for character development, we are really only introduced to one main character, that being Keegan.  However, we are able to gain full access into his thoughts and feelings as we accompany him on his downward spiral.  Little by little we are introduced to the many factors which actually contributed to his decline.  The intriguing thing about Keegan is the fact that he is not actually that difficult to empathize with.  I am sure every reader out there has been wronged at some point in their life and in their own way has wanted to inflict their own type of revenge. We are pulled into his situation and in a way are able to relate it back to some point in our life.  However, through Keegan we are able to perceive how this can all go very wrong.  He become increasingly nasty and unsavory as the story progresses.  His development is a lesson in morality and living well all unto itself.

I am not very often a huge fan of short stories.  Instead, I prefer longer novels which fully explore a multitude of characters, and a complex plot which takes place in a wondrous setting.  However, in my opinion A Fine Death does everything it intends to do.  It is presented as a mysterious, suspenseful and engaging story which perfectly flows from one scene to the next.  The limits of the human mind are tested and the results are seen in Keegan’s actions.  I would recommend this story to all adult readers who are fans of thrilling mysteries.

5 out of 5 Purging Stars for this one!