|Art by Melanie Cook|
"The Long and Silent Ever After" by Carlie St. George (13,341 words)
I will admit, I was a little worried going into this last (for now, at least) of the Spindle City Mysteries. Things were not exactly looking good for Jimmy and Hank and given the overall tone and body count of the series so far, I was not exactly thinking I'd get my happily ever after. However, I can safely say that I was very pleased with what this last story accomplished, and rather love the setting and characters as a whole. Not that everything is super happy and cheery throughout, but then that wouldn't have felt quite real. There are no miracles to be had in the story, really, just people being people, helping people. Jimmy Prince is still in a complicated situation, and a dangerous one, but this story definitely takes a lot of the loose ends the earlier installments introduced and wraps them up, all while adding new wrinkles and depth to Spindle City.
And I love that this story revels so much in its own mythology and world building. Characters (dare I say fan-favorite ones at that) make triumphant returns that are nicely handled and mostly work within the structure of the plot. Some of then are a bit of a stretch but it's worth playing along to see everyone interacting, seeing the personalities clash and embrace. Jimmy has assembled quite the motley crew, sort of abandoning the idea that he's just a loner, just a man alone against the world. It's how he sees himself in many ways, but for a loner he sure has a lot of people willing to die with him. Maybe not for him, but definitely with him. The story keeps things moving and mostly fun, the mystery this time tracking down one of Jimmy's ex's, a proposition that puts Jimmy not against the most powerful business in Spindle like last time, but against its even more brutal underworld. And in true Jimmy Prince fashion, he manages to get pretty much everyone interested in gunning for him.
In my earlier reviews I likened these stories to Star Wars, and if that's the case then this one does have more of a Return of the Jedi feel to it. It's a celebration of the setting, and one that avoids the utter darkness of the second act. Jimmy is down and hopeless at times here but he's also surrounded by people he loves, and who love him. The threat of loss is heavy, present, and I was wondering how the series would handle the idea of the happily ever after, seeing as how it has subverted just about every fairy tale trope it could. I'm not sure that I would say that it subverts the happy ending, though it certainly subverts the "everyone gets married and has babies" ending that most fairy tales opt for. The lost princess is not restored to power. Indeed, the story seems to be about the power of people to write their own endings, if they're not too dead to manage it. And in that it does a fine job of not so slavishly trying to forego the fairy tale endings that it sinks itself into the tragic queer love story tropes instead. The ending is complex but refreshing. The second story certainly hit harder, but this final one releases that tension, gives the audience what they (or at least I) want. It's fun and it's rich and the character work is amazing as always. I would keep reading these stories, and hope that someday a story revisits Spindle City. For now, though, it's a fitting way to let the curtain drop, a glimmer of hope in the grit and grime and noir. An entertaining and satisfying read!