Because I can't stand the anticipation of waiting for the new short story collection, The Doll, by Daphne du Maurier I decided that I should read one of the collections I have sitting here unread in the interim. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating--Daphne du Maurier was an excellent short story writer. Her stories are generally between twenty and forty pages so there is ample time to develop characters and plots. Often the stories are dark and atmospheric and "The Alibi", the first story from The Breaking Point: Short Stories, is no different.
You never quite know what you are in for when you start reading a short story. I'm familiar with du Maurier's more famous stories, but almost all the stories in this collection are unfamiliar to me. The eight collected here are suspenseful tales where she "explored the boundaries of reality and imagination". "The Alibi" begins in an unassuming manner, but it takes on a very macabre tone. A married couple are out on a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll, but it becomes obvious very quickly that something is not quite right with the husband. He urges his wife to return home as he'd like to walk at a faster pace to get a little exercise and her high heels put her at a disadvantage.
And now let me share just exactly what is in his head.
"'They don't know,' he thought, 'those people inside, how one gesture of mine, now, at this minute might alter their world. A knock on the door, and someone answers--a woman yawning, an old man in carpet slippers, a child sent by its parents in irritation; and according to what I will, what I decide, their whole future will be decided. Faces smashed in. Sudden murder. Theft. Fire'. It was as simple as that."
"He looked at his watch. Half-past three. He decided to work on a system of numbers. He would walk down three more streets, and then, depending upon the name of the street in which he found himself, and how many letters it contained, choose the number of his destination."
This is not what I was expecting. Very creepy. Remind me again not to open the door to strangers (well, I wouldn't anyway, but still). I'm only a quarter of the way into the story, but he has already found a possible victim and is hoping to rent a room in her basement flat and need I tell you what he might use it for? Naw, better not. I am hoping this is one of those stories that is simply a dark fantasy, but with Daphne du Maurier, nothing is ever completely simple.
A few years ago I made a list of the stories I thought she had written, and now I think I am going to follow up on them. And it seems with a forthcoming volume of uncollected stories that there will be more out there to discover!