A Double Cheeseburger and a Funeral
Your opening dialogue is great. I’m immediately drawn into the rhythm of the piece, and delighted by the inappropriate irreverence of the couple on their way to a funeral. I see that this is part of a larger story about a man killing his way to the family fortune-- what an exciting idea for a twisted protagonist! It's a premise I'd be inclined to read, looking forward to each murder with twisted sense of glee, wondering when or if he'll get caught. Great idea!
Critically speaking, a little more subtlety. would be nice. I wanted to slowly suspect that he might be the murderer, not have it handed to me so clearly. I agree with JLM that the story could be rounded out a little, but for different reasons. He's being investigated, so it feels like he didn't get away with it (even the sister is screaming at him at the funeral), but those moments actually make him feel triumphant instead of threatened, so i need a little more to understand why that's the case.
I look forward to seeing where you go with this!
Superbly Unsettling: An artist of dread
To say that Tabatha’s writing is “artful” would be an understatement. Her pen is her paintbrush. Her imagery captures the extreme emotional swings that we as humans face— those changes that happen “in the blink of a jaundiced eye” as she so aptly puts it. She tackles the moments we’re most uncomfortable with— postpartum depression— and adds a demonic twist. Xervantaz’s chilling hunger drives impulses that are all too real.
Disturbing, unsettling, yet uncannily beautiful, Tabatha’s writing will stay with you long after you’re done.
A Tale of a Hated Hero
Your first sentence delivers tension and imagery artfully fused together— something you maintain throughout the piece. It’s no wonder your writing is award-winning! You build intriguingly complex characters in an equally complex society. Your turn-of-the-century small town cruelty is exceptionally well done. It’s a perfect environment for your outcast butcher. A reluctant rejected protagonist makes for an unlikely savior and an intriguing read. I look forward to seeing where this story goes.
As this is a draft, I took the liberty of adding some line edits.
The opening sequence happens in slow motion— with the girl falling— which at first made me think she might be falling from a great height. It might be worth positioning her in the street a bit earlier, but it reads fine as is. It’s part of your style— you tend to do your scene setting in a way that teases some sort of reveal (the fall, the cigar smell, etc), but there are points where you might be able to still accomplish that, but make it feel a little more real-time by adding a bit of positional clarity. Entirely up to you.
“Had it been anyone else he might have taken pleasure in standing back to watch…” So this is a tricky sentence… anyone else refers to the girl, but it could be interpreted to refer to the Conroy. “Had it been anyone else falling in front of that carriage…” might work better.
“The mother listened with interested” I think you meant “interest”
I would have preferred the opening of Chapter 2 to be an extended monologue, told by Babcock instead of presented in 3rd person.
The shuffling apprentice during the meeting with Babcock is a little disorienting before he’s introduced. Plotwise, he feels like a bit of a plot device. I think he's an excellent vehicle for your character's motivation, his appearance is just slightly too convenient-- it would be nice if he were introduced more fully in perhaps the first chapter or the beginning of the scene, instead of an undefined lurker in the background, that way he might feel a little bit more established before he arrives in the story.
All in all, a great read!
This was expertly done. Your writing style is well-matched to the period— Your prose meanders like London’s alleyways, revealing some new element at every turn. You do this effortlessly, almost invisibly (wait—he doesn't want to kill her?… wait—they live together?)— staggering each tiny piece of information at perfectly-paced intervals as we follow your bread crumbs to the tale’s morbid end. Every moment offers something new. Most of all, I loved the emotional turn when Kidney discovers that Liz is dead. That was my favorite part.
Read this story. And learn why you should never take the Leather Apron lightly!
Constructive note: If there is any suggestion I could offer, I’d say that rhythmically I felt a bit of a break in the weeks that Kidney waited to contact Harry (Starting with the paragraph “It was a few days later…”, and when it picked back up I felt I’d lost a little momentum. This could be resolved by giving us a glimpse of Kidney desperately wanting to contact Harry, but being afraid to throughout the week— adding tension to the moment when he finally has the courage to do so.
Serving surreal realness
I really really really liked this. I just voted for you!
The voice is flawless-- I can't write men as well as you do and I have a penis. Maybe I'm narcissistic but I particularly enjoyed the moment where he muses about how artists would do better in such a solitary job. But my favorite moment in the piece is when Stephanie says "You'll be better soon." That was powerful. It really got me.
If I could be critical of anything, it would be the ending. The report-ending is tricky to pull off, since it's an obvious device and it risks being a bit of didactic narration instead of media res, becomes a visible device and loses it's dramatic tension... but I think it could work with some tweaking. 1) I'd suggest making it it's own chapter 2) The report felt a little unnatural. Like i could tell you wanted to say something about the hormones, and that *you* wanted to mention that misanthropes were desired, and that they were expected to die at some point, but it didn't seem like the *report* wanted to say that. I would suggest recasting the report as a Psych Report on Jeffrey, starting off with his selection as a misanthrope, and moving on to explanations for his erratic behavior and lessons learned for the next selection, maybe even a bit on the new candidate which is expected to be a baby-killer. Just a suggestion.