Condor in the Stacks
A Bibliomystery Short Story by James Grady
Review: A CIA agent, who now goes by Vic — not his real name, of course — and is recovering from an unknown illness that required hospitalization in a psychiatric ward, is given a work assignment in the Library of Congress to examine books brought in from the field to see if anyone inadvertently placed classified material between the pages prior to their being destroyed. But he's puzzled by a number of aspects to the job, not the least of which is that he's told there will be nine crates of books to look through every day, and yet there are only seven crates in his office, in Condor in the Stacks, a short bibliomystery by James Grady.
Vic was known as Condor when he was a covert spy in the field, but the Library of Congress is not the hotbed of international intrigue that he is accustomed to. But Vic can't help but read more into a situation than may be there. For example, he's been told to go through books in nine crates — "coffins" as he thinks of them — but only seven are present. He completes his first assignment and then the next day, again there are only seven crates and yet his paperwork requires him to report on the nine crates he sifted through. Curious. Separately, a female colleague is convinced she's being watched and has asked for Vin's help in identifying him. But while trying to come up with a way to assist her, he can't seem to distinguish between the real people in the Library from the imaginary ones in his mind.
Condor in the Stacks is a decidedly odd story, not a bad one but definitely a strange one. Part of the problem for the reader, and it is no doubt intentional on the part of the author, is that Vic (Condor) cannot separate reality from fiction; he "sees" characters — both human and non-human — from books on his walks through the stacks of the library, so it's never quite clear whether or not what — or who — he sees is, indeed, actually there. The resolution to the missing two crates is equally uncertain, and eventually veers into action/thriller territory, with what can only be described as a most bizarre ending. Here are the last two sentences of the story, which in a way, give a sense of the tale just told: "There are bodies in a basement, mysteries to be found, questions clean of his fingerprints, books to be treasured. There are lovers sharing moments, dreamers dancing in the night, madmen in our marble city, and amidst those who are not his children, through the fog of his crazy, the swirl of his ghosts, the weight of his locked-up years, surging in Condor is the certainty that this, oh this, this is the real world."
Acknowledgment: Mysterious Press provided an eARC of Condor in the Stacks for this review.
Review Copyright © 2016 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Condor in the Stacks: Washington D.C.
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Condor in the Stacks by James Grady — A Bibliomystery Short Story
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Publication Date: February 2016
List Price: $2.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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