Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Devil You Know, by Jas. R. Petrin

"The Devil You Know," by Jas. R. Petrin, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2016.

This is Petrin's third appearance in this blog.

Reading a new adventure of a favorite character fells like meeting up with an old friend.  But some friends are definitely better in fiction than in real life.

Which leads us to Leo "Skig" Skorzeny, a tough-as-nails loan shark in Halifax, Canada.  Skig is too old to be doing this stuff, and he has an "imp" in his guts he expects will kill him, if someone else doesn't do it first.

Among his enemies are the Halifax police who have "found" a block of cocaine in his ancient smelly Crown Vic - in an earlier story it spent a few hours in the harbor - and they offer him a deal: they won't press charges if he helps them find a truckload of old furniture that was stolen while being shifted from police headquarters.

Skig has good reason not to trust the cops.  As his friend Creeper says about the sergeant running the operation: "When she says win-win, she really means a double win for them.  Nothng for you."

But Skig figures out that what they are really after is not the old desks and tables but some filing cabinets that were in the truck.  And if he can find them - and determine which file they are desperate for - he might get out of the mess with a whole skin.

As usual, a good story from Petrin.


 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Agatha Award nominees

Congratulations to all the Agatha Award nominees!  Here are the short story finalists:

Barb Goffman, “A Year Without Santa Claus?” (AHMM)
Edith Maxwell, “A Questionable Death” History& Mystery, Oh My (Mystery & Horror, LLC)
Terri Farley Moran, “A Killing at the Beausoleil” (EQMM)
Harriette Sackler, “Suffer the Poor” History& Mystery, Oh My (Mystery & Horror, LLC)
B.K. Stevens, “A Joy Forever” (AHMM)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

To Kill a Rocking Horse, by James Powell

"To Kill a Rocking Horse," by James Powell, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 2016.

I have said it before.  My friend James Powell (who makes his fifth appearance in this column today) has more imagination that any three authors should be permitted to possess.   This is particularly obvious in his annual Christmas stories in which ideas go flying across the page like bullets from a machine gun.

Exhibit A is this tale about Canadian private eye Gladstone Tydings (ponder that name for a moment), who gets visited by Santa Claus.  The fat man needs help because his elves have gone on strike.  They feel that someone is trying to destroy all the rocking horses they created in honor of the now extinct species of ski-footed ponies that helped the elves survive when they first came to the Americas.  (Why did the elves wind up at the North Pole?  They were the last to cross the Bering Sea land bridge, because they had the shortest legs, of course).

I won't give away much more except to tell you about two groups who appear in the story: militant women who attack phony santas and are known as the Slay Belles,  and the North Pole's crack paramilitary unit, the Christmas Seals.  And then there is the rule about camp followers with a heart of gold, and --  Somebody stop me!

Read the story.  You'll love it.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Inquiry and Assistance, by Terrie Farley Moran

"Inquiry and Assistance," by Terrie Farley Moran, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January-February 2016.

We start reviewing 2016  with a nice story in the P.I. vein by my friend Terrie Farley Moran.

New York City, the Great Depression.  Tommy Flood, unemployed bookkeeper is looking desperately for work, and surviving through family ties.

And speaking of family, he gets an invitation from Van Helden, the wealthy man who employs his cousin Kathleen.  He has a dangerously wild daughter, and Van Helden has decided the solution is to find an attractive but tame gentleman to escort her safely to the risky sorts of establishments she enjoys.

"You, Mr. Flood, are reasonably presentable and so unsuitiable that I'm sure my daughter would find you attractive."

And, of course, if anything goes wrong, cousin Kathleen will immediately join the ranks of the desperate unemployed.

Tommy meets the daughter by pretending to be a private eye.  And guess what?  Turns out he's good at it.  The story has a couple of minor plot holes, but I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Little Big News: Edgar nominations!

The Mystery Writers of America have just announced the nominees for the Edgar Awards.  Congratulations to all the funalists.  Here are the short story choices:


"The Little Men" – Mysterious Bookshop by Megan Abbott (Mysterious Bookshop)
"On Borrowed Time" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Mat Coward (Dell Magazines)
"The Saturday Night Before Easter Sunday” – Providence Noir by Peter Farrelly (Akashic Books)
"Family Treasures" – Let Me Tell You  by Shirley Jackson (Random House)
"Obits" – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
“Every Seven Years” – Mysterious Bookshop by Denise Mina (Mysterious Bookshop)




ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD (Best First Story)

"Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by Russell W. Johnson (Dell Magazines)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

'Twas The Night Before, by Todd Robinson

"'Twas The Night Before," by Todd Robinson, in Thuglit presents: CRUEL YULE, 2015.

The best story in this collection of holiday tales from Thuglit Magazine was penned by the editor himself, alias Big Daddy Thug.

Boo and Junior are lifelong buddies, stuck holding down the fort in an empty Boston bar on Christmas Eve.  They are both orphans, no one to get festive with.  Noel makes  Boo  miserable and Junior happy, which makes Boo feel even worse.  (Oh, and one thing to get straight: Boo calls Junior his "heterosexual life partner," but they are both male (unless I am reading the story wrong).  So either Robinson or Boo really means platonic life partners.)

Back to the story.  Into the joint wanders a semi-regular customer name Darla and a man she has apparently just met at another bar where she works.

Boo says: "I didn't like him immediately.  He had that cocky Ivy League swagger, chin held at an arrogant angle.  His overcoat looked extremely soft and extremely expensive.  But maybe I was just feeling jealous of somebody with a beautiful woman on his arm on the worst night of my year...."

Turns out Boo's instincts are on target.  Caleb, for such is the jerk's name, attempts to give Darla a date rape drug.  Our heroes spot the scheme and things get complicated.  And messy.  And funny.

"So...do you guys have a  plan?"
"For what?" Junior asked.
"To get him back into his room past the front desk."
 "Improvise?" I said.
"That sounded like a question," Darla said.
I thought for a second.  "Yes.  Yes it did."
From the floor of the backseat erupted a terrified, "FLUMMWRAAAA!"

And happy holidays to all you thugs out there..