The Inquisition and Other Stories

Fiction - Literary
272 Pages
Reviewed on 04/24/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

An anthology of thirteen short stories that transcend time, The Inquisition and Other Stories by Michael Tabor gives you a taste of the best that the genre has to offer. Historical, romantic, and mysterious are just a few of the themes and experiences that you will encounter in this collection. Travel back in time to meet the renowned painter Nicolas Poussin as he records the events in his youth for the sake of posterity. A narrator examines the familiar phrases of love in the verses of John Keats in connection with the poet’s famous love letters to Fanny. An engineer dabbles in rigorous self-examination as he becomes a prisoner in a unique form of solitary confinement. A playwright finds a metaphor in cancer within himself and in the oppressive Stalinist regime. These are among the moving stories in this collection that will create lasting impressions.

As a fiction writer, Michael Tabor takes his craft seriously. A reader who first developed a love for short stories before the novel, I find Tabor’s short tales as complete worlds where you can immerse yourself in his dedication to exploring limited time and space. I enjoyed digesting these stories slowly, the way you need to chew your food well to better absorb nutrients. I was immediately drawn to how he handles Poussin in a first-person POV, as he makes the painter so sharp in his recollection of his youth and the events that compelled him to write about himself. Precision in short stories requires thorough knowledge of characters to effectively detail episodes in their lives, and Tabor has handled this so well that he has made them even larger than life. I absolutely enjoyed reading The Inquisition and Other Stories. If you believe that the novel is a more ambitious genre than its shorter cousin, this book will prove you wrong.

Grant Leishman

The Inquisition and Other Stories is a mixed collection of short stories from author Michael Tabor that, although having no fixed theme, are subtly linked through the clever use of different literary devices. Each story is very different but all have twists or similar aspects that the reader will not see coming. The subjects are as varied as the time frames. The first tale, Catherine Lescault, takes the reader back to seventeenth-century France and examines the lives, loves, and perversions of the famous painters of that time. Exodus is a compelling story about the escape from Nazi Germany to Australia told through the eyes of a young Jewish girl and how that experience would affect the entire course of her life and her perceptions. Belle Lettres: A Novel examines the correspondence between an innocent young woman and her secret admirer, as the admirer’s ardor becomes more obvious and potentially dangerous. Blue Guitar looks at and mocks, to some extent, the pretentiousness of those who inhabit the art world and its rarefied atmospheres. The title story, The Inquisition, is a fascinating comparison between a playwright who is diagnosed with cancer and the character in the current play he is writing; a man being interrogated by the Russian OGPU, Stalin’s powerful and vicious secret police force, the forerunner to the KGB. Those are just five examples of the thirteen wonderful stories that make up this collection.

I have never been a big consumer of short stories and approached reviewing The Inquisition and Other Stories with some trepidation. I need not have worried. Author Michael Tabor has produced a collection that simply has no weak links. Every story has a clear, definitive message that the author is offering and although necessarily character development is minimal, he is able to create some unique characterizations that just jump off the pages and keep the reader fully engaged and quickly rushing onto the next story in the collection. That and the use of different literary techniques and devices mean that no story is similar in any way to another and, most importantly, the reader is continually kept guessing about the plot, the motivation, and the ultimate disposition of the story. In any collection, a reader will have his or her favorites and I am no exception in that regard, although each is superb and unique in its own way. For me, my favorite story was Steve, an appealing tale of a shy young man who had been through the foster-care system, and his sole ambition, as an adult was just to fit in, be normal, and to be accepted by his peers. The awakening of Steve as a man and as a social being was a joy to read. What I particularly loved about this story was the portion dealing with the perception of Steve by all the characters he meets on his journey to fulfillment. This is a truly wonderful collection and can be enjoyed by anyone, short story fan or not. I can highly recommend this read.

Natalie Soine

The Inquisition and Other Stories by Michael Tabor is a fantastic collection of eclectic stories that explore the daily lives of people, both historic and current. In 1612, Nicolas Poussin must solve the mystery of a painting which resurfaces after it had been destroyed in a fire. Richard, a headwaiter, overhears intriguing conversations by restaurant guests and creates his own stories around them. Jessica Rossi is a single businesswoman looking for love in all the wrong places. Ten-year-old Miriam Sarah Goldfarb experiences the atrocities of WWII and how it impacts the rest of her life. Mayhem and murder abound in a coffee shop when customers are not satisfied. These are just a few of the wonderful stories contained in this collection that describes the lives, experiences, and ambitions of each character and the people around them.

The Inquisition and Other Stories is an intriguing read and Michael Tabor does an incredible job of describing the characters, scenes, and locations from small apartments to large buildings. I especially enjoyed the twists and turns as well as the many surprises and thought-provoking endings. Michael’s writing is so descriptive it creates a feeling that the reader is in the story, sharing the experiences of the characters. While some stories do move around, the book is smooth flowing and an easy read. Perfect for relaxing before bed as each story stands on its own, making it unnecessary to read the book from start to finish in one go. All round, a great book highly recommended to all adults and would make a perfect gift for the holiday season.