The Coin Collector by Michelle Proulx

The Coin Collector by Michelle ProulxCombining a good ear for humour with sound logical arguments, Proulx creates a short story about taxation that is neither lumpy with tedium nor spattered by absurd ranting.

Mr Quimbly is the Tax and Revenue Agency’s newest investigator. Eager to do well on his first assignment, he girds his metaphysical loins and sallies forth to the warehouse of Mr Green to discover why he is stockpiling legal tender. But Mr Quimbly is not the first investigator to have this file; will he fall prey to Mr Green’s razor-sharp negotiation style?

While the earnest government official in a fantasy world is not a new trope, Proulx manages to make it her own, inviting comparison with Pratchett, Asprin, and other such authors without descending into pastiche.

This is in great measure due to the firm basis of logic upon which the plot is built. While there is fantasy in the world, the heart of the plot is Mr Quimbly’s discussion of taxation and fiscal probity with Mr Green. Where another author might play upon the absurdity of law, or use buzzwords to convey the discussion, Proulx provides the reader with the entire debate. In addition to allowing the reader to experience the humour rather than being told where to laugh, this adversarial point and counterpoint has a beauty of its own.

The only potential issue with this story is its length. Proulx’s efforts at creating a plausible world and interesting plot might leave the reader with a feeling the end came slightly too soon.

Mr Quimbly is a well-written protagonist. While most readers will not have experienced quite the issue he does, anyone who has experienced the inevitable massive hitch on their first day in a new job will empathise with his determination to soldier on in the hopes following the process will make everything work.

Mr Green is an equally plausible character. Although the reason for the tax investigation might make both his overall nature and motivations little surprise to readers even vaguely familiar with fantasy, his dialogue and revealed character are clearly the expression of a life lived as part of modern Western culture rather than the convenience of movie foreigners speaking English even in private.

I enjoyed this story. I recommend it to readers looking for a light but satisfying entertainment.

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