Literary Fiction Short Stories

Zenith Man – Jennifer Haigh

1 February 2020
Zenith Man Book Cover Zenith Man
Inheritance Collection
Jennifer Haigh
Amazon Original Stories
19 December 2019

Whatever had been going on inside the shuttered old house, the couple who lived there kept it to themselves. Among the locals, there’s only chilling speculation.

Neighbors are shocked when Harold Pardee reports his wife dead. No one even knew the eccentric TV repairman was married. Within hours, horrible rumors spread about what that poor woman must have endured for thirty years. Until the Pardees’ carefully guarded world is exposed. New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh delivers an endearing short story about our misguided perception of strangers, the nature of love, and the need for secrets.

Jennifer Haigh’s Zenith Man is part of Inheritance, a collection of five stories about secrets, unspoken desires, and dangerous revelations between loved ones. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single setting. By yourself, behind closed doors, or shared with someone you trust.

Zenith Man is a short story from the Inheritance Collection and is inspired by real events.

“This story begins with a 911 call. The first shock was that Harold Pardee’s wife was dead. The second shock was that he had a wife.”

The opening line held so much promise but the drama just continued to deflate right to the end.

While my expectations aren’t high with regards extensive background, character depth and plot complexity in a fictional short story, it is still important to create a story of imagination. I’m a bit lost as to what the real purpose of this story was about. The flow of the narrative was very jolted and none of the action actually led anywhere of interest. The main plot just abruptly ended.

What I did like were the fragments of Harold’s character that we had glimpses of, a socially stifled older man that saw life as he chose to see it, a silent unobtrusive participant in society, with complete ignorance or without concern for other perspectives. He appears apathetic but you suspect that deep down his heart is breaking for the loss of his wife, Barbara Jean Pardee. Harold’s wife suffered from severe epilepsy from ever he knew her and frequently took seizures where she collapsed. As a consequence, she never left the house, never had a job, never had a driver’s license – for all intents and purposes she never existed. When her autopsy was complete it revealed she had received multiple broken bones throughout her life, she died of suffocation and there was a pinkish tinge to her teeth and gums. This led to the assumption that Harold had mistreated and murdered his wife. Harold is charged with murder and his court case is looming.

Sorry to stop so abruptly but what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

There isn’t much reading in this story of 22 pages so not a lot will be lost if you do decide to read it but it’s difficult for me to recommend.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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