The Case of the Bleeding Wall

May 10, 2017 at 5:00 pm (Reads)

wallThe Case of the Bleeding Wall by Joe R. Lansdale & Kasey Lansdale

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The Case of the Bleeding Wall is the fourth in a small series known as The Casebooks of Dana Roberts. This is the first book in the series, though, since the first three stories were just short stories that appeared in magazines and anthologies. Before I read this book, I tracked down the short stories that preceded it and read them in the order of their publication, and I figured I would review them all in bulk.

The first is “The Case of the Lighthouse Shambler”, which is an odd introduction of the character. The story, about her and her two associates investigating a ghost in a lighthouse, is short, so it fels fast and undeveloped, and Dana doesn’t feel like a fully realized character. It doesn’t help that the story is told with a framing device, where she attends a meeting of a secret society to share her story about the ghost. It seems unnecessary, especially since we only get enough from that device to establish the society, and that it doesn’t play into the larger story. Dana’s way of speaking feels stilted and unnatural, too, which didn’t help. It’s missing a lot of the narrative flair that one would expect from a Lansdale story.

The next story is “The Case of the Stalking Shadow”, which also has the framing device, though Lansdale spends less time on it. This story is about when Dana was thirteen and had one of her first experiences with the supernormal. The story isn’t as brief as “Shambler”, so we get to see more of Dana’s character, and there were some genuinely creepy moments there. It was a step above the first story, though the ending did feel a bit rushed (though I’m starting to see that a lot in Lansdale’s shorter works).

The third story, “The Case of the Angry Traveler”, is just ridiculous. Lansdale uses that same framing device, this time reducing it to one or two paragraphs at the beginning of the story, and one or two at the end. It feels like he’s putting it in there because he used in the first two stories, because it feels even less useful than it did in the first two stories. And don’t get me started on the premise of this story. What starts out as a haunting in a subterranean city (think Underground Atlanta) turns into an eye-roll of an experience.

All of that leads into The Case of the Bleeding Wall, which is a much better story than the three preceding it. It helps that this is a full-length novella instead of just a short story, but it also helps that the Lansdales drop the framing device all together. Whoever narrated the previous three stories doesn’t exist here, though the society does. This time, a woman in the society, Jana, is our narrator, and she pulls Dana aside after one of her events to see if she can help her with her own haunting. Neither Dana’s nor Jana’s story are the focus of the novella, since they only serve as a way to bring the two together. Once Jana’s story is resolved, Dana hires her to help her on a case that takes her to Italy. There, they encounter the titular bleeding wall, and the adventure that carries the story begins.

Since this is a rating of just this novella and not the entire series, I’ll refrain from marking it down for the preceding stories, but it’s hard to recommend reading just this book without reading all the stories. None of the events from the preceding stories affect this one, but it helps to have that larger picture before going straight into the book. If the Lansdales continue writing the books in the style of the novella, though, then I’m on board.

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