Sunday, April 7, 2024

The Four-Nine Profile, by Richard Helms

 "The Four-Nine Profile," by Richard Helms, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2024.

 This is the eleventh appearance in this blog by Richard Helms.

Write what you know; so the experts tell us.  Helms is following that advice here. He used to be a forensic psychologist, like his protagonist.

Helms makes an interesting choice for opening the story: Nathan Lake is interviewing a man who has pled guilty to sexual assault but denies he has done it. This turns out to be unrelated to the main plot, but we learn a lot about Lake's character, job and methods.  And the story does circle back to one part of that interview.

But after we see Lake in his milieu he is rudely forced out of it.  A serial rapist has turned to murder and the police chief wants him to analyze the unknown assailant before he strikes again.  Lake protests that he has no training as a profiler, could even lose his license for trying, but he is left with no choice.  Adding to the pressure, he is forced to work with a cop he doesn't trust.

A nice and suspenseful procedural.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

I Remember it Well, by Wayne J. Gardiner

 "I Remember it Well," by Wayne J. Gardiner, in Black Cat Weekly, #134, 2024.

 This is the third story by Gardiner to get reviewed here.

It may be related to the aging of us baby-boomers but I have detected an increase over the last decade of stories about people with memory problems.   Seems like a theme better fit for shorts than novels, I think.

Charlie Hackett is an aging ex-cop and his memory has been failing for a while - in fact that's why he became an ex-cop.  At a funeral for a fellow veteran he spots a woman a decade younger and he is certain he knows her from somewhere.

Joanne Harner is sure she knows him and doesn't suspect that he can't recall the details of their previous encounter - one that was life-changing for her. 

Charlie, and the reader, slowly piece together his connection to Harner, and then Charlie -- for the second time -- has a decision to make.

A nice story about a man with interesting dilemmas.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

No One Will Believe You, by Paul Ryan O'Connor


"No One Will Believe You," by Paul Ryan O'Connor, in Mystery Magazine, 2024.

Ayden is not a very lucky guy.  He's  a dishwasher at a restaurant in the South Bronx and shares an apartment with four people (since he provides the least rent money, he gets the couch).

But his troubles really begin when he gets mugged at gun point by the most famous actor in the world, Ted Pace.  (You won't have any trouble guessing who O'Connor was thinking of when he created this character.) 

“You can’t get away with this,” Ayden said . “You’re a movie star . I know who you are . Everyone knows who you are .”

“No one will believe you,” Ted Pace said...

And of course, he's right.  Telling the cops he was mugged by a movie star only gets Ayden in deep trouble.  Understandably, he finds it hard to let bygones be bygones, especially when something in his very empty stolen wallet turns out to be valuable.

Can our risk-averse hero find a way to beat the risk-loving celebrity?  With a little bit of luck in this very clever story, he will.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

What is Your... by Mat Coward


"What is Your..." by Mat Coward, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, January/February 2024.

This is the eighth story by Coward to appear in this blog.

Sometimes a writer faces the challenge of finding something new in a formula.  But sometimes there is no formula and the writer is producing something sui generis, belonging to no category. Not for the first time, Coward has done the latter.

Our protagonist is an actor, not as young or successful as he would like to be, but with enough fame that he is occasional asked to fill out the type of questionnaires  that show up in popular magazines.  What is your chief failing?  Where are you at your happiest?

He is tired of filling them out and says he is always tempted to answer What is your guilty pleasure? with "Child molestation and fox hunting."

This story takes the form of such a questionnaire and his dry comments on each query and the answers he would like to give.

Is there a crime involved?  Oh yes, and the nature will slowly reveal itself in this charming, witty, tale.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Who Wants to Kill Someone? by Michael Mallory


"Who Wants to Kill Someone?" by Michael Mallory, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2024. 

This is the sixth appearance in this blog by my friend Michael Mallory. He is also an actor and, as is often the case, his show biz experience shows in this story.  

Last year I wrote here about "if this goes on" stories, the subgenre of science fiction which looks at a current trend and considers where it might be leading.  In this case the trend is reality TV.  

Bruce Locklear was a casting director until a disastrous mistake got him blackballed from the business.  In  desperation he signs up for a TV show called Who Wants to Kill Someone?  The cast is flown to a Central American country and one member is assigned the role of murderer and is then actually expected to kill a fellow performer.  Not surprisingly, the show has been a huge hit.

Not surprisingly, fiction being what it is, Bruce is given the role of murderer.  And that's when things get complicated because not everyone is who they appear to be and the actual plot of the show is different than it seems - but no less dangerous.  

A clever concept and a fun, suspenseful story.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Come On Eileen, by Joseph S. Walker

 "Come On Eileen," by Joseph S. Walker, in (I Just) Died in Your Arms, edited by J. Alan Hartman, White City Press, 2024.

Minor correction made.  My apologies.

This week continues my embarrassing fanboy status with my friend  Joseph S. Walker, since this is his twelfth appearance here.

 Liam Walsh grew up in a neighborhood called Little Dublin, ruled over by Patrick Flynn.  His father worked for Flynn, and he adored Flynn's daughter, Eileen.

Then, at a off-to-college party for Eileen, Flynn shot Liam's parents, killing his mother and crippling his father.  Obviously Liam's life is changed forever. I won't reveal the many layers of what happens next. It's a terrific and suspenseful story.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Mall Cop Christmas Parade, by Joslyn Chase

 "Mall Cop Christmas Parade," by Joslyn Chase, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February  2024.

'Tis the merry season in California and Bradford Hines has a ticket to get back to his family in Maryland.  But he's in a busy mall and before he can grab that plane he wants to grab a wallet out of a man's jacket.  

That part's easy, but Brad is not as  smooth a pickpocket as he thinks and a female security guard catches him in the act.  But is she really a security guard? 

This is a wonderfully convuluted story full of wrong turns, twists, and back flips. I enjoyed it a lot.