"Cold War," by Cheryl Rogers, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September/October 2001.
In light of the recent list of nominees for the Shamus Award it seems appropriate to ask: what's a private eye story? The obvious answer seems to be a story about a private eye. But when the Private Eye Writers of America created the rules for the Shamus Awards decades ago they wisely made what I think of as the Scudder Exception.
You see, among the best private eye novels of the modern era are Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series (and if you haven't read the new one, A Drop of the Hard Stuff, treat yourself), and Scudder is NOT a licensed P.I. So the rule goes approximately like this: the story has to be about someone who is paid to investigate a crime, but is not a government employee. That includes the classic private dick, but it also covers Scudder, and lawyers, and reporters.
All of which is relevant because Cheryl Rogers has written a story about a reporter in Western Australis who is investigating the death of a local wine-maker. Not a very popular wine-maker, as it turns out. His widow says cheerfully "I can't think of many... who didn't want Saxon eliminated, out of the picture, poof!"
The plot thickens when it becomes clear that our narrator had excellent motive to want the man dead herself. The ending surprised me although it was nicely foreshadowed. Well-written and funny. No wonder it won Australia's Queen of Crime Award.