by Edward Bryant
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted October 30, 2019
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Fetish is a novella by Edward Bryant, originally published in paperback by Pulphouse in 1991, but now available in e-book or paperback from ReAnimus Press. It was a finalist for both Locus and Bram Stoker awards. The first-person narrator is Angela Black, a character featured in "Haunted," a story in the previously reviewed Predators and Other Stories. Angela's business card says she's an herbalist, but she considers herself a witch.
Out of the blue, Angie gets a call from a former lover, Conway Delacroix, whom she had not seen in ten years. Throughout the story there are unspoken things about what precipitated their estrangement, yet it is very clear that Angie loved him, and still does. Con needs help in unraveling the mystery surrounding the deaths of two of his friends. Following his directions to a desolate area in northern New Mexico, as soon as she enters his house she immediately realizes it is the scene of his friends' murders. Oddly enough, Con is reluctant to talk about that situation, instead he seems more inclined to rekindle their romance, but that is short-lived. Tragedy strikes again, pitting Angie against a malevolent foe, who may be (Con seems to thinks he is) the Devil incarnate. Richard Carrillo is a famous artist, but apparently so much more. He's in search of a Native American artifact, a fetish doll with protective powers.
There are several graphically depicted sex scenes throughout, both consensual between Angie and Con, as well as ones in which Angie is compelled to service Richard. The story was written by a man, but in the guise of a woman narrator. I'm a man, so it's hard for me to determine if Bryant was in any way able to accurately depict a woman's view of sex. Angie also has several vivid and disturbing dreams, one the night before receiving the call from Con, and those continue throughout the story. She knows there are clues in the dreams that will help unravel the mystery, if only she could concentrate and focus, but it is possible Carrillo is psychically interfering with that. Angie is able to enlist the aid of another of Con's lovers, a movie stunt-woman, and they devise a scenario that reminded me of the film F/X. Angie survives the ordeal, and she's in possession of the fetish, but as with a lot of other supernatural tales, the fate of the villain is not certain, no matter how it might seem at the moment.
I wasn't sure how to rate this, vacillating between 3 and 4 stars. I eventually settled on 4, but it's more like 3.75. The desolate landscape is rendered in vivid prose, the majority of events are unpredictable, and character motivations are clear. The rating would have been higher if the villain had not turned out to be over-hyped, with motivations based on an childhood trauma insignificant to all but him. I suppose the moral is to always be aware of how the simplest thing to you might be considered a major event for someone else. I like Angie as a character, both her skill as a herbalist/witch, and her honest self-reflection. I know of three other stories that feature Angie, only one of which I know the anthology it's in. I need to track the others down, and all the while I'll be wishing Bryant had collected them all together, or written a novel for her.
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