Short Story Review: 'Dermot' by Simon Bestwick



What is the price of working with evil in order to defeat evil? Featured in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four edited by Ellen Datlow, Simon Bestwick's “Dermot” raises this question, and unlike in many stories that deal with the same, the answer isn't so reassuring.

It starts off with the description of Dermot himself. The kind of man you want to avoid. Not because of his looks, but because of his essence – that incomprehensible evil that seeps off of him like a toxic leak. And you know you want no part of whatever he has planned. 

From there, Bestwick takes us to a police unit called “Special Projects.” They deal with the things and the people not even the most jaded cops want to face. And this is Dermot's destination.

Throughout the story, there's the tension of anticipation. Dermot's, the officers' and the reader's. But each is a different type of anticipation. For Dermot, it's the giddiness and foul joy of knowing that his reward is waiting for him once his task is complete. For the officers, it's knowing that they are exchanging the reward for information they desperately need – and yet…. And for the reader, it's wondering what that reward is, how repulsive can it be, and if what the police officers get in exchange is worth the price?

Bestwick doesn't disappoint – Dermot's reward is as evil and reprehensible as expected. However, one is still left wondering if there was another way, if what the officers get in return is truly worth the sacrifice.

There's a lot of character description in this story, but some scenes (one in particular, thankfully) are glazed over. It doesn't take away from the story, but it does make one question motivations of the officers, and whether or not the exchange can be reasoned away (though, really, it can not).

Overall, “Dermot” is a well-written, disturbing and quick read, full of unanswered questions.

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Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Fellow of Film Independent's Project: Involve.