Ray Bradbury can do it all: science fiction, horror, crime, fantasy, mystery. One of his most famous books is Fahrenheit 451, but he’s written tons of short stories. The collection Killer Come Back to Me is a compilation of Bradbury’s crime stories.
Bradbury’s way with language makes common things new again. From one story: “Mr. Willis tonked a laugh out like cleaning your pipe on a flat stone”; “Peter [he shouted], show him, but it was all underwater. Blood pounded around on big red boots.” In another story: “A heart is an erratic thing. Like mercury. It scurries all over a person’s insides. Johnny’s heart was like mercury.” In another story: “the beat of the ocean comes in a kind of salt anger.” And: “He felt the wetness of that cheek, he felt her warm breath touch his palm like a summer moth.”
The stories are a mix of the fantastic, noir, suspense, pulp, and disturbing. You can’t compare Bradbury to someone like Agatha Christie—his stories have dark edges, the characters are more complex, and the stories’ questions deeper than any typical cozy. Yet he’s not a pretentious author in any way. His stories have a certain grit and dread; they are very down to earth, with characters that are often on the fringes of society.
Stories run the gamut from a man’s future self traveling through time to tell him he’s going to murder his wife; a man who takes on the persona of a dead gangster under the tutelage of a beautiful woman; a child begging adults to believe that a woman is buried alive in a vacant lot; a man considered dumb by the townsfolk who has an aptitude for solving crimes; the murder of a conjoined twin; and a world not unlike a Black Mirror episode where humans can be duplicated and murdered to sate long repressed rages.
Bradbury mostly writes from the male perspective, and his women tend to be of the ethereally beautiful porcelain type. I still enjoyed the stories; the characters were intriguing and the situations he puts them in rife with suspense and dark impulses. The last story in the collection in particular stayed with me, about a man who comes back to kill his childhood bully, only what he finds is not what he expected. All in all, a satisfying read.