Jane Stitch doesn’t know who she is. This isn’t the result of some variety of amnesia or a run-of-the-mill case of existential angst. No, Jane is having an issue with her identity because she is a monster of the “made by Frankenstein” variety. She is literally made up of half a dozen different women, and these women are starting to encroach on what peace of mind Jane has been able to find.
When we meet Jane, in the opening pages of A Stitch in Crime, she is firmly mid-crisis. In a fit of uncontrolled rage, she has scared away the one person who loves her, perhaps for good. The black hole of her past is an all-encompassing obsession. So, she does the only thing that’s left to her. She gets on a train and heads back home to seek out the truth from her creator. Home is Quartzsite, Arizona. Jane’s memory of this middle-of-nowhere desert speck consists only of her very first hours of existence and then the road out of town. Stepping back into this world might be the last thing she wants to do, but it is the only place she can start to put together the story of her origin.
Jane’s creator, Burke, is a monster himself. Jane has always understood this. But, inevitably, there is more to his treachery than meets the eye. It’s only as she starts to reconnect with her origins that she starts to truly comprehend what he has taken from her and from so many others. He is unwilling to give Jane the one thing she wants from him: the names of the women he used in his creation. There is good reason for his reluctance, of course. Names matter. They open the door to freedom, something Burke never wanted Jane to have.
Jane is a product of all of the traumas inflicted on the women who have come before her. She is the vessel for their collective memories. She feels the weight of this responsibility in her very bones. It spews forth from her in a palpable and limb-rending rage. Even though she doesn’t have the physical ability to speak words, she articulates the story of all women throughout time. It is a story of collective struggle for autonomy, dignity, and freedom from abuse. Jane, regardless of the identity of “monster” that is imposed on her, is a hero because she does what is necessary to take control of her own story and to keep her own voice. This is a clear indication of why #StoriesMatter.
Of course, there are many, many other things that go bump in the night in A Stitch in Crime. Robinson’s well-honed imaginative force is on full display. The reader can scarcely turn a page without encountering some new terror, a seemingly endless roster of otherworldly creatures. Each one is fully sketched out and has their own thoughtfully specific place in this densely packed universe. There is a lot to recognize from traditional monster lore in this story, but Robinson consistently adds in little twists that elevate them into something fresh and original.
A Stitch in Crime is a monster story with a varnish of noir and a heavy dose of western fiction. Robinson deftly merges these genres, but doesn’t lose sight that this is a timeless story about a woman’s struggle to take back control from all the hands that have stripped it from her. Jane is a monster who is also a victim. This is perhaps why, of all the creatures in Robinson’s world, she seems to have the most empathy for the few remaining humans scrabbling to exist in this demonic frontier.
A Stitch in Crime is my first foray into Robinson’s City of Devils series. There are many details scattered throughout the story that seem like obvious calling cards to events that have taken place elsewhere in the series. If nothing else, Jane’s description of her tumultuous relationship with Nick Moss, the protagonist of the first three books, is enough to make me want to head back to the beginning.
The most important takeaway from A Stitch in Crime for me is my affection for Jane. I can’t wait to hear from her again. She is a fascinating anomaly in a world at complete odds with itself. She has started down a very interesting road of self-discovery, and knowing the imaginative places Robinson is capable of going, it should be a very entertaining trip.
Creative Team: Justin Robinson (author)
Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam
Click here to purchase.