When train driver, Andy, spots a little red car on the level crossing, he knows he can’t stop the train. Just before the inevitable happens, the young woman driver catches his eye and mouths ‘Sorry’.
The young woman is identified as Jessica Price, and her brother, Simon, is the one who has to sort out her affairs after her death. Jessica comes from an ordinary decent family, who are grieving for her, and her flat is the epitome of order and tidiness, but, as Simon rapidly finds out, her life is anything but. He is plagued with calls from random people who he cannot place: Veronica, the manager of a ‘human resources’ company; a seedy businessman called Daniel; Nate, a petty criminal, and his girly, pregnant, wife Emma; Rick, a dodgy private investigator. Most mysterious of all is Alexis Starr, who seemed to be sharing Jessica’s flat, as all her clothes were hanging in Jessica’s wardrobe – but it was strange that neither Simon nor his mother, Marion, had ever met her. Also… how was it that Jessica had so much money in her account, and £3000 in cash left lying about in her house?
Morgen writes, in the third person, from several points of view, with Simon – just about – emerging as the main character. Each character is distinctive, well-developed, believable and interesting. This is a story about real people in a real situation. However, two things we learned about Simon in the last few pages surprised me, changing my perception of him. I think I would have preferred to have known these quite important facts about him towards the beginning of the story.
The story, only a novella, is well developed, with a clear story arc, from which it does not digress. Although I can see why Morgen did not start the work with the main character (Simon), many other characters are introduced into the story before he is – an interesting use of technique.
Morgen is well-known to us as a writing-related blogger at MorgEn Bailey – Creative Writing Guru, which, by the way, is a treasure trove for all writers, including several ongoing (ie permanent) competitions, lists other organisations’ competitions, writing courses, advice on self-publishing and editing. She has also been a judge for many comps.
‘After Jessica’ is thoroughly recommended.
Available from Amazon here.