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So… I got to participate in the Lovecraftian Mythos. I got to tickle my inner geek in several places. The Mythos. Call of Cthulhu (the RPG). Chaosium. It’s a short story called “Stained Windows,” and you can find it in the anthology Madness on the Orient Express (edited by the illimitable awesome that is James Lowder). Even better, I got to be nestled in with the names of some writers I really like.

The story is a sort of demented love story (between two recovering lunatics on a train). It’s also a gentleman thief story (shades of Arsène Lupin). It’s a weird noir (shades of Dark City). It’s a story about sleight of hand and escape artistry. And there’s a scary train. It’s got some mythos too.

It’s getting some encouraging reviews:

Stained Windows by Joshua Alan Doetsch. So if the last one made me think of Dostoyevsky existentialism, this story made me think of Camus. The tone and writing style really reminded me of The Stranger although the stories are completely different. Anyway, this is by far the most dreamlike, surreal and offbeat story in the entire collection and it’s the perfect way to end Madness on the Orient Express because honestly the title of this anthology could also be the title of this short story as well.

“Stained Windows is about a gentleman thief who is a bit over his head with his latest ‘acquisition.’ The main character has stolen an ancient tome and he’s on the Orient Express to deliver it to a buyer. However, a lot of other…factions want the tome too and they’re not going to take no for an answer. Along the way, the protagonist meets a whole bevy of characters, each of which gets stranger and madder the closer they get to the end of the line. The snappy dialogue of this piece makes it this a real treat, if not the outright crown jewel of the anthology and the ending is both abrupt and awesome. It’s not at all the ending you will expect for this tale but after you read it (maybe even re-read the story to get the full effect), it’s pretty perfect.

‘Stained Windows’ by Joshua Alan Doetsch is the final story of the collection, and was a real highlight for me. It’s one of the very longest stories, possibly too long. But it’s full of wonderful rich and disturbing imagery, that conjured up a world I was happy to stay in for as long as possible. I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was going on for a long time. You do find out eventually, but I liked the uncertainty that the story built. Was the main character really insane – despite their protestations – and delusional, or was there another explanation? As I said it was a real highlight for me, and I was quite sad when the story finished.

‘Stained Windows,’ by Joshua Alan Doetsch, is my other top fave (it was a close battle). It’s both nightmarish and dreamlike, a journey of true madness, brilliantly written and the best possible close to the book to make for maximum lingering unreality and can’t-stop-thinking-about-it effect.