(this review originally appeared at Outsider Writers Collective)At page one, “The Dead Redhead,” I was curious.At page ten, “Traveling Lightheaded,” I was intrigued.At page twenty-seven, “The Stranger’s Dilemma,” I fell in love.Twenty Stories (Rank Stranger Press) beautifully enhances my admittedly limited perception of flapper-era New Orleans, from the speech (“Merci, Mr. Zacher”) to the eats (“Shrimp Remoulade”) to the drink (wine, wine, and more wine), carrying all upon prose as elegant as its author. The collection, the first (of many, fingers crossed) from New Orleans resident and enthusiast, Kristin Fouquet, mixes vignettes, fully arced flash fiction pieces, and a couple longer stories, each uniquely stirring and strong, yet collectively comprehensive in their representation of Fouquet’s impressive skill.Fouquet thrives with the vignette “slice of life” form (perhaps because of the word’s French origin?), building her scenes in measured, dense sentences, often cutting these pieces mid-breath to leave the reader gasping. What, in lesser hands, might come across as a simple device to showcase cleverness, Fouquet respects her readers, offering instead endings of substance and lasting power.With “Traveling Lightheaded,” a seemingly predatory stranger convinces an inebriated woman to travel away with him for the weekend. The woman agrees, then questions her decision, then regains her trust, this time sober, only to open herself to a final-line observation that reinforces the stranger’s original predatory disposition. From odd, to impulsive, to creepy, to romantically hopeful, and then right back to creepy, “Traveling Lightheaded” navigates an entire range of emotion in a short two pages.And her story, “Baptism,” I’ll be thinking of for months.And “Standard Pack,” damn, Fouquet can write.