In my last post, I mentioned how the seemingly innocent ‘throwaway’ mention of a house cleaning after some badness had gone down in Gary Braunbeck’s novella “The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss.” And how I found out the rest of the story.

Well, here it is. The night I finished Destinations Unknown, I picked up 1999 – the Best American Mystery Stories. Basically, it’s 455 pages of, you guessed it, mystery stories. I read the first stoy, “Keller’s Last Refuge” by Lawrence Block (dug it), and was about to go to bed when I noticed the second story was by Braunbeck. “Safe.”

Huh, I thought. Check that out.

So I decided to knock that out, too, since I had enjoyed Unknown. And it was only 37 pages. It’s not like it was going to keep me up all night.

1999 - the Best American Mystery Stories

Come to find out, “Safe” is about that house cleaning mentioned in Unknown.

What are the odds? I had just finished a novella published in 2006. I picked up a book published in 1999 on a whim, and it had a related story in it. Unbelievable.

The story itself is really, really good and really, really dark. Where “Bliss” was light hearted, and kind of fun, “Safe” is nasty and ugly and somewhat sad. Reading both almost back to back was perfect, as it seemingly showed both sides of Braunbeck’s coin. I had a good time reading “Bliss” because, as mentioned before, it was a story over a beer. “Safe” wasn’t as fun. This one was dark and told over a campfire to creep you out. But, between the two, I preferred “Safe” because of not only its darkness, but also its realism.

I picked up another one of Braunbeck’s books, “Prodigal Blues,” and it looks to be another dark book. I’ve thrown it towards the top of my “to read” pile, as I think I’m going to like this guy more and more as I read more of his work.