"The Investigation of Boyfriend #17," by Maureen Keenan-Mason, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2011.
If you look back at your notes from previous classes you will find that I said the one thing the opening of a story must do is keep the reader reading. I mentioned that there are lots of other things the opening can and probably should do. One of them is to tell us what kind of a story we are about to read. It is easy for the opening to tell us: this is noir, get ready for a cosy, there's going to be spooks here, or whatever.
On the other hand, sometimes it can be fun to have no idea where a story is going. That's what Keenan-Mason pulls off in this tale.
Lila is a twenty-four-old woman who, after several bad experiences, has started investigating each boyfriend. She has a locked desk where she keeps files on each new swain, checking out their stories to see if they have a wife, criminal background or other no-no in their past.
The tone is light but there is an element of creepiness here (does Lila have a hobby or an obsession? ToMAYto, ToMAHto) and I could easily the story going into nasty territory with either Lila or a boyfriend getting very wicked. The fun here is not knowing until near the end which road we will be traveling...