‘Undercover’ a short story by Tamsyn Muir from the ‘Into Shadow’ collection of Amazon Original Stories – highly recommended.

A fresh-faced newcomer arrives in an isolated, gang-run town and soon finds herself taking a job nobody else wants: bodyguard to a ghoul. Not just your average mindless, half-rotted shuffler, though. Lucille is a dancer who can still put on her own lipstick and whose shows are half burlesque, half gladiator match. 

But the stranger is no stranger to this particular ghoul. Both women are undercover in their own way. And both have something to lose if their connection comes to light.

Wow. Just, WOW!

Undercover is a short story that will stick with me for a long time.

I’d seen good reviews for this story and I’ve read Gideon The Ninth, so I knew that Tamsin Muir was likely to deliver something special but even so, I was taken by surprise.

I mean, the story only takes two hours to narrate. That didn’t seem like enough time to build a new world, connect me to strongly drawn characters, generate an ever-increasing sense of threat, deliver some of the bloodiest, most violent scenes that I can remember reading and still keep most of my attention on trying to guess the what will happen next. Yet, Tamsyn Muir does all of that and more.

The ideas are fresh and vividly described. The plot is intricate and twisted. There are layers and layers of deception and betrayal here and Tamsyn Muir repeatedly lulled me into thinking that I’d worked out what was really going on and what would happen next, only to strip away another layer and show me how wrong I was.

This is a tale of cold calculation and extreme violence but the calculations make sense in the end and none of the violence is gratuitous.

Susan Dalian’s narration was perfectly judged and enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

When I’d finished the story, the first thing I wanted to do was go back and listen to it again so that I could work out how I kept not seeing what was going on.

The second thing I wanted to do was to buy the rest of the Into Shadow collection in the hope that at least a couple of them might live up to the standard the Tamsyn Muir set with Undercover.

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