reviewed by Steve Weddle
Mea culpa. I’ve only been to Dublin twice. The first time was a fleeting visit which involved taking a cab from the airport to the railway station and then a train to County Westmeath to work with J. P. Donleavy on a book he was writing for the publishing house I then worked for. We completed our edit discussions, had smoked salmon sandwiches and I got back to Dublin around midnight to find my hotel reservation had been lost. The next occasion, two decades later, was for New Year’s Eve and I inevitably made my way to Temple Bar. Felt like the right things to do, even though I’m a non-drinker (purely taste; no principles involved). So, I’m no expert but the spirit of the city did somehow connect with me.
I’m also a die-hard fan of the way that traditional Irish music has influenced so much of modern folk and rock ‘n’ roll in strange and wonderful ways that speak to my heart and guts. So, when the invitation to write this story came about, I knew it had to be a ballad of some sorts. A dark ballad, with death and soul heartbreak at its centre. I was working on a novel about an involuntary private eye seeking a missing young Italian girl, a story that took both characters to Paris and Rome, amongst other places, and couldn’t get the theme out of my mind. So the new tale subconsciously became a variation on this story I couldn’t escape, albeit with both characters somewhat changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.
As for the Morrígan, I needed an angel of death, and three for the price of one was a temptation I could not resist. I willingly succumbed.
I don’t follow too many rules in my day-to-day life. I guess the only one I follow has to do with drinking enough coffee to keep the headaches away.
But there’s another rule I’m going to start following. If strange women in a dark room tell you that there will be a “price to pay” for something, I’m going to ask what that price is. I’m not just going to agree to it like the guy in this story.
“A Price to Pay” from Maxim Jakubowski is the spooky tale, what the author calls “a dark ballad” in the introduction. And this one drips shadows from every corner, giving you a feeling of dread and suspension and an idea that the story is a centuries-old ghost story.
A man is hired to find a lost girl, but what he finds isn’t as important as what he loses. Jakubowski’s tale is one that will stay with you, one that will cause you to make additional rules in your life. My new rule: “Don’t read a Jakubowski story just before bed.”