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The Lift (CSI Eddie Collins) Kindle Edition
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"The Lift" is a short story about Barrett's series hero, Eddie Collins, who is a British CSI. I originally got this story because, having seen the U.S. television version of "CSI" and its many offshoots, I was a bit curious about how they analyze crime scenes on the other side of the Atlantic. After reading this story, I still don't know much (other than the fact that they wear police-like uniforms, a key plot point), but it doesn't really matter. "The Lift" would be an excellent story no matter where it was set or, frankly, what the occupation of the lead character was.
In the actual story, the setting is a decaying apartment complex in England, where Eddie gets in a rickety. graffiti-riddled elevator to investigate a crime scene, in this case, a robbery of an elderly tenant living on an upper floor. Two other men enter the elevator at the same time, a man in his 60s wearing a suit, and a young, scruffily dressed man about 20. Then the elevator breaks down and the three wait. But it's not a pleasant wait, since Collins' two temporary lift mates obviously know each other and don't like each other very much. And something violent is about to happen.
That last sentence isn't a spoiler, since, in a brilliant bit of scene setting, author Barrett announces as much on the first page. The story, which is told in the first person from Collins' perspective, begins by him mentioning that he had just seen someone die for the first time and, at the same time, saw a person become a killer. In "The Lift," this dramatic bit of foreshadowing isn't a cheap gimmick, it's a highly effective way of building suspense. Because from this moment on, as soon as the unlikely threesome enter the elevator, the reader knows something bad is going to happen and starts observing everything Collins' lift mates say or do to try to guess just who is going to come to a bad end and how it will happen.
Alfred Hitchcock said that building suspense effectively involves letting the audience know something bad is about to happen when the characters don't. Author Barrett obviously took that lesson to heart, because, as the story begins to unfold, Collins is only mildly perturbed by being with two less-than-charming companions who are acting somewhat hinky. It's only gradually that he realizes just who the pair are and why they are acting the way they do. And, when tempers do flare, and Collins tries to keep things calm, the readers know just enough to know that his efforts probably won't be successful, but not enough to know just what's going to go wrong. As the story goes on, readers will also develop a bit of an understanding about Collins as a character as he tries to defuse the situation.
"The Lift" is a longish short story, but it's the perfect length to tell its tale. Barrett's premise probably couldn't be sustained for much longer, but, as it is, the story is a perfect example of a self-contained mini-thriller. For an American reader like myself, there are a couple of slang terms with which I wasn't familiar, but I could guess the meaning from the context fairly easily. Further, "The Lift" isn't a story whose readers will want to try to parse the meaning of each word. Instead, it becomes a mad dash to the finish to see just what's going to happen. After reading "The Lift," I still don't know all that much about what a British CSI does, but I do know that Eddie Collins is an interesting character and, more important, that Andrew Barrett is a heck of a crime writer.
The whole story takes place over perhaps 20 minutes or so, most of it in a stuck lift (“elevator” to us across the pond). Despite the extremely short time frame, author Andrew Barrett has created a vivid tale with outstanding prose, excellent dialogue, and distinctive characters. And the ending was a goody—I loved the penultimate sentence!
The first book in the Eddie Collins series is a tome of over 600 pages. I hate tomes. Despite that, based on what I saw of CSI Collins and Mr. Barrett’s terrific writing, I have downloaded The Third Rule (for only 99 cents as of this writing) in anticipation of enjoying more of the little taste of excellence provided by The Lift.
His lift mates for the ride up are the true odd couple, a young wannabe hood and a much older gentleman who is neatly dressed in dated clothes. They appear to know each other but Eddie senses something is off between the two. He is correct.
The lift stalls as it ascends. Tensions mount and the gripping, nail biting scene plays out in true Alfred Hitchcock style. Life and death struggles appear eminent with CSI Collins in the middle.
Will Eddie have another crime scene to process? Will he live to process apartment 68?
Loved this book. Andrew Barrett knows how to write an exciting short story.
I was inside the lift (elevator) with the three, CSI Eddie Collins, Grant and Reg. On the lift surfaces I could see the gritty oil residue from sweaty human touch. I could smell the breath inhibiting odors. I flinched when the tooth missed my face. I never heard it richocet off any surface.
"The Lift" is a well crafted story well worth a multiple of its current price of purchase.
Mr. Barrett, well done!
Eddie Collins has boarded an elevator and is just seconds from a clean liftoff when someone sticks his big shoe in between the doors as they are closing. This is not destined to be a solo ride for Eddie.