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W.a. Warner's picture

The Sharp End

By W.a. Warner in Arrest Us

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.


The Sharp End is a fictional story with repeated references to well-known San Diego crimes. Thanks for supporting crime fiction! WA Warner


TheKyleBTM's picture
TheKyleBTM June 4, 2014 - 2:36pm

Interesting read, keeping the question of innocence and motivation works to push it forward, though at some points i felt it slowing and wishing for something more. i would like to have known what actually happened in the death of Jessica Townsed. The depression and anger behind Arthur Pembroke's mind were present, but his nerviousness and diversions pushed a lot of distrust onto him.

Mark Grover's picture
Mark Grover June 5, 2014 - 1:01pm

I really liked how the dialogue between Aurthur and Detective Elling created a lot of tension and suspense.  I also liked how you kept the story open ended, as it often leaves me wondering about what really did happen after I finish reading the story.    I wasn't sure why the reporter found Aurthur so threatening that she would leave a note saying that he would have murdered her.  Was it because of the knife?  It seems like that would almost be a "normal" reaction for someone who lost their spouse to a murderer.  Had the reporter been that concerned wouldn't she have taken some sort of measures to protect herself instead of leaving a note in a book?  It also would have been nice to have a bit more background on the murder of his wife.

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 5, 2014 - 5:38pm

Very strong dialogue.  The back-and-forths were very combatitive, and elegantly unpredictable.  Once or twice a crime-drama cliche pops up ("That's why I left the DA's office") that transparently seems more about delivering backstory more than natural human discussion.  But it was easily overlooked as the next heated discussion quickly ramped up.  Good piece. 

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 6, 2014 - 10:37am

Well done.  I agree that there were a couple cliches but I don't mind them. I wanted to know a bit more about what happened to Jessica, possibly even more so than I wanted to know if he killed his wife, probably because one might answer the other???  Either way, it made me want to read more, which I suppose is the goal.  Good job and best of luck.

Devon Taylor's picture
Devon Taylor from Allentown, PA is reading Doctor Sleep June 7, 2014 - 11:26pm

Great story. I'm inclined to agree that there were a few bits of backstory that may have been a tad forced. Such as the "DA's office" thing. But with only so much space it's understandable to think that you'd have to squeeze those tidbits in where you can. The dialogue was really believable and fluid. You could really sense the bad blood between the two characters. There were a few missing pieces to the puzzle I think, though. Or at least parts that needed a little extra detail to really fill them in. Such as the other college girls leaving notes behind. I'm assuming that they were pursuing the same information that Jessica was, but it never really gets explained. And if other girls were leaving notes saying that if they turned up dead Arthur was the one that killed them, why is Arthur just now being investigated? Just some thoughts. The way that Arthur really lets his guard down at the end and we really get a glimpse into how dark he is is great. The ending really leaves one questioning whether Arthur's a cold blooded murderer or if he's just waiting to get his revenge. This may be walking the fine line of being a serial killer story in that respect, though. Not sure. Either way it was a really good read. Thanks for sharing!

Nick Porisch's picture
Nick Porisch from Brainerd, Minnesota is reading The Stand June 8, 2014 - 8:33pm

Pretty good work. The dialogue was amazing, but it didn't totally make sense to me what was going on with Jessica. We never get to know what she was actually doing, so it kind of left the story a little open ended. Besides that, great story.

guf's picture
guf June 9, 2014 - 8:32pm

Hi W.,

Thanks for posting this. There's a lot of solid dialogue and characterization here, but it could use earlier hooks to pull me forward as a reader. The first hook that made me want to read more is on page 7:

The photocopy was of a handwritten note on three-hole punched college-rule paper. It read, “If I am found dead, either murdered or by suspicious circumstances, please notify the police that I am certain Arthur Pembroke is my murderer.” It was signed by Jessica Townsend.

Really concrete, specific, detailed implications that I started to unpack in my head the moment I read it. Before that, as much as I think the main character is interesting, I was waiting for the story to get to the point.

This feels like the middle of a much longer piece.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 10, 2014 - 10:26am

I got to the end of the story and immediately thought I was missing something. This is incomplete. It has no end.

Sometimes you get to the end of a story and you are left with a feeling of wanting more. This feels like there is a whole chunk of story just missing. There isn’t any resolution here. You have almost 2,000 more words to play with, but you appear to have stopped in Act 2. This isn’t an open ending; it’s a lack of ending.

What is Pembroke not telling us?

Why would Townsend possibly think he murdered her? There are no real hints given Pembroke asserts his innocence, and there is no reason to suspect him of being an unreliable narrator.

You can leave the ending open if you want, but at least give us some hint towards resolution and closure. What happens next? I don’t know if you plan to develop this some more. I’d certainly try and use those extra words to give this a third act.

It’s a real shame because I was enjoying the story. It’s well written, full of tension, and I like that nothing is up front. Every bit of information that comes from Pembroke feels hard won. The characters ooze history and clash against each other wonderfully well. It flows well, and the dialogue is good. If there is an occasional foray into cliché, it is done so in a knowing way.

If you do add more to this, drop me a message and I’ll happily read it through again.

W.a. Warner's picture
W.a. Warner June 10, 2014 - 10:58am

I feel compelled to apologize. I've been a fan of Litreactor for a long time. When I saw the free writing contest, I thought I'd submit the first chapter of a novella-length manuscript. I didn't realize other contestants would have a chance to read and critique it. My apologies to those that read this and felt the story was unfinished (because it is!). And many thanks for all of the critique. I've removed the "that's why I left the Da's office" line and replaced it with what I hope is an edgy insight into Pembroke's mind and why he couldn't return to the DA's office. I believe it's more sublte. I'll keep an eye out for other cliches. Many thanks.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 11, 2014 - 1:49am

No need to apologise, the fact that this is a first chapter makes perfect sense. What I'd suggest doing though is editing the description just to add in that this is only part of a bigger story. Most people will probably read the story before they read the comments, but they'll see the description first. This is a good start to a larger story.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 16, 2014 - 2:59pm

Very nice. I want to know what happens next. The dialogue, tension, all were excellent.

Dan J. Fiore's picture
Dan J. Fiore from Pittsburgh is reading too many things at once June 25, 2014 - 12:32pm


Honestly, the only issues I had were the questions I was left with at the end. Now that I know that it's a lead-in to a larger story, that's most definitely a good thing. The dialogue flows very well and there were only a few small cliche moments throughout. Overall, the the important thing is I got to the end and really wanted to keep reading, which is exactly what you want a first chapter to do. Great work! Now go finish it so I can find out what happens!

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 10, 2014 - 2:47am


I'm reviewing this as an opening chapter and was certainly was left wanting more. So thumbs up from me. I've read tales in this contest where I have problems getting passed the first few pages, not so with this one. Good job so far. 

All the best and happy writing!


Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 16, 2014 - 5:34am

Hey Warner,

In all fairness, I'm unable to give you a thumb up, because as it's been pointed out, this really isnt a shorty story- the end(even with the edit you made) is too truncated and doesn't really answer a lot of the questions that you bring up- which makes sense if this is only a first chapter.

I'm going to try to review this as a first chapter of a story:

Honestly, I think there's a lot you can trim from the beginning. The first seven pages have some good dialogue and bits, but I thought they moved a bit too slowly, and that there was too much focus on Arthur being a smartass. Be careful about all the remarks he makes through the story- a witty/smartass main character is such a staple of the genre that it almot borders on cliche nowadays. You do have some good lines, like:

I’ve got an eighty-thousand dollar piece of paper, framed, hanging in my office that says otherwise.”

I also like the relationhip between Elling and Arthur, I think it's good and you play of it well.

You picked up my interest around page seven with Jessica's letter. I'm wondering if maybe that would be a better start, with you then sprinkling some of the backstory and examination as we move forward in the story. To me, Arthur doesn't seem like an unreliable narrator, so I never doubted when he says he didn't kill either Jessica or his wife. That said, I also didn't really feel any tension from the accusation- I would think that even if he was sure he didn't kill Jessica, that note would give him more of a reaction.

I like the ending, but I would suggest doing a second pass at his final monologue. The rest of your dialogue is natural and free flowing, but the last bit, with the compasion of the knife's edge to a sinister smile is too overwrought, and I couldn't buy it coming out of a person's mouth.

I hope this helps somewhat. I do think you have the good beginning of a story I would pick up, just not necessarily a short story.

W.a. Warner's picture
W.a. Warner July 25, 2014 - 12:21pm

Many thanks! I'm honored and grateful you spent so much time reviewing my piece and providing feedback. I will definitely incorporate your comments as I edit. Thanks again!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 17, 2014 - 9:15am

Hi W,

Hard to get realistic interrogation room speech - this isn't bad. You do a good job with what you describe. Though, as these two know each other, though, save the worst expletives for when they're really necessary?

But ultimately, you have given us the start of a story; to unsolved crimes, a series of falsehoods, leaving us where? As the start of a bigger piece, sure, but as a short story it doesn't work for me, however well you tell this section of it. So, a regretful downvote... :( More detailed feedback on what you HAVE written below!

Not sure on time frame for this - how long has he been held for, since he is exhausted, and was he picked up or asked to attend?

Not sure the camera would be hidden these days?

You really think I killed this person?  this is key. She hasn't said this, and if she had, things would be going a lot different. You can use the cliches here - eliminating from inquiry, merely checking up, whatever.

“Why Haiku?” Elling asked.
“She’s short and Japanese.”

- Brilliant! Though, this assumes he's asked the same question. You might introduce some doubt. "I don't know, it;s her email account, not mine. Probably because..." might do it, but still fun!

The shirt stain bit - I get what you're trying to do (avoid the question...) but I don't get the full sense from what he says. Does he do it lightly? Distractedly? Whimsically?

He's been quite shifty, he definitely knows more then he is saying, and the reader doesn't know full details. So - ask yourself, do you really want to pop the conflict with a "He reminded himself that he was innocent."?

immediately connected with it

or a complete disconnect of conscience,

These two come pretty close to each other, kind of leap out at me.

So the end - is powerful, a strong motive for decisive action, a good speech - but it doesn;t wrap up this particular tale. Hope you write more, tell us just what he's done over the last 3 years to investigate his wife's death, Good luck!


W.a. Warner's picture
W.a. Warner July 25, 2014 - 12:21pm

Many thanks! I'm honored and grateful you spent so much time reviewing my piece and providing feedback. I will definitely incorporate your comments as I edit. Thanks again!

W.a. Warner's picture
W.a. Warner July 25, 2014 - 12:15pm

Thanks for all the detailed feedback! It really shows a lot of effort and interest. I'll look for everyone's work and do my best to reciprocate. Thanks again!

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 28, 2014 - 1:16pm

I thought this was a really good story. The dialogue felt natural the pacing was nice. The  only thing I might suggest is a little more time spent on Arthur's wife, alive and dead, so that we have a better idea about their relationship and feel more connected to Arthur's cause.