Sunday, June 16, 2024

And Now, an Inspiring Story of Tragedy Overcome, by Joseph S. Walker

"And Now, an Inspiring Story of Tragedy Overcome," by Joseph S. Walker, iThree Strikes -- You're Dead!, edited by Donna  Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, Wildside Press, 2024.

My friend and fellow SleuthSayer seems to be slipping.  Here it is June and he has only had  two stories reviewed in this column.

It is an interesting tale of worlds colliding.  Lonnie Walsh is a second generation mobster.  His sister dies giving birth to the daughter of Brant, a worthless jerk of a husband.  Now Lonnie has to watch over little Kayla while trying to keep idiot Brant out of trouble.

Things get more complicated when Kayla turns out to have the desire and potential to be  a world-class figure skater.   The best thing in this story is Alicia Petkov, the skating coach, who is as hard-bitten as any mobster you are likely to meet.  

"I'm telling you it's very possible that at some point, a group of people in a small room will decide who to send to the Olympics.  When they have that discussion, we want Kayla to be the girl with the saintly dead mother. Not the girl with a gangster in the family."

It strikes me that a lot of Walker's best stories are about complicated families. This is a fine example. 

Sunday, June 9, 2024

A Matter of Trust, by Barb Goffman

 "A Matter of Trust, by Barb Goffman, in Three Strikes -- You're Dead!, edited by Donna  Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley, Wildside Press, 2024.

This is the fourth story by my friend and fellow SleuthSayer to get reviewed in this space.

I suppose of all the sports that appear in this anthology bicycling is the one most likely to catch my attention, since I spend sometime every day pedaling.

Ethan and Jessica are married.  He works at home, she doesn't.  But that's not the problem. 

"Nothing says love like jelly... Donuts don't judge."

That's the problem.  While Jessica takes care of herself Ethan pampers himself with unhealthy food.  Jessica tries to get him bicycling every day but he finds ways around it.  

And, like a lot of people who lie to people they love, he stops trusting her.  A nice psychological tale with a satisfactory ending.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bled, by Joseph S. D'Agnese

 "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bled," by Joseph S. D'Agnese, in Murder, Neat: A SleuthSayers Anthology, edited by Michael Bracken and Barb Goffman, Level Short, 2024.

I have a story in this book.

This nice historical tale is the third appearance here by my friend and fellow SleuthSayer, Joseph S. D'Agnese.

Greenwich Village has been a magnet for the artistic and the different for a long time.  This story is set in 1859 when such people flocked to Pfaff's a German-owned tavern.  When a theatre critic is murdered there one night it draws unwanted attention to the place. Things go on there that might get the place shut down if the police find out about it.

Clearly what is needed is an amateur sleuth who knows the place and the people and that turns out to be... Walt Whitman.  The poet is a regular, as is his acquaintance the famous illustrator Thomas Nast.  (It would have been cool if Nast could play Watson, but I suppose there was too much Whitman couldn't let him know.) 

Complicating the case is the fact that the critic was stabbed while sitting with a glass of poison.  Was this two attempts at murder, or a botched suicide, or something else?

Fascinating story with great period detail.  

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Restoration Software, by Robert J. Binney.

 "Restoration Software," by Robert J. Binney, in The Killing Rain, edited by Jim Thomsen, Down and Out Books, 2024.

Let's talk humor.  Some stories are witty.  Some are quirky.  Some are downright farcical.  We are solidly in farce territory here.

This is the story of a Seattle private eye, not exactly a  native to the city, but one who has been kicking (ahem) around the northwest for a long time.  "He might be an eight-foot-tall mythological savage covered in mottled, tangled fur, but he was no dummy."

Yup. Sasquatch, P.I.

You may wonder how he could possibly do his work without being noticed, but that's not a problem.  

"I'm pretty good at being elusive."

His guest looked skeptical.

"Go ahead, try to take my picture."

But there is satire here too.  The villain is a highly recognizable Seattle type and his scheme is thoroughly Seattle-based.  Terrific story.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Where's Dookie? by Greg Fallis


"Where's Dookie?" by Greg Fallis, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May/June 2024.

This is the third appearance in this blog by Greg Fallis.  It is the second with these characters.

Hockney is a private eye.  Ellicott is an attorney for the Midwest Center for Artists' Rights. He hires Hockney after a painter's models are stolen.  The models are somewhat unusual because she a Kool-Aid artist, painting blown-up versions of classic Kool-Aid packets.

Seriously? Is there a market for such things?  Ellicott reminds Hockney that if a type of thing exists someone will collect them.  And some of those collectors want paintings of their precious items.

But, as I said, someone has swiped the painter's collection of packets.  What follows is a witty search for the loot and a man nicknamed Dookie (don't ask why).  I guessed the ending but that didn't stop me from enjoying this clever story.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Mine Eyes Dazzle, by M.K. Waller

 "Mine Eyes Dazzle," by M.K. Waller, in Dark of the Day, edited by Kaye George, Down and Out Books, 2024.

As you probably know by now, I read a lot of short stories.  I seldom take the time to reread one of them, but I did this one.  You might wind up doing the same.

Stephen is a blind lawyer, in his late forties.  Jean is his paralegal, almost a decade younger.  When they get married they declare the relationship a miracle, and it seems to be.

Until another miracle occurs; this time of the medical variety.  An experimental surgery provides Stephen with sight for the first time.  Suddenly he doesn't need Jean as he did before.

Things happen.  One of them is a total eclipse of the sun.  And that's all I will tell you about this clever story.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

The Mysterious Woman in the Lifeguard Chair, by Bruce W. Most

 "The Mysterious Woman in the Lifeguard Chair," by Bruce W. Most, in Mystery Magazine, May 2024.

This is the second story by Most to get reviewed in this column and both have featured Weegee the Famous.  In real life Weegee was a freelance photographer, famous for his portraits of New York City at night, especially of crime scenes.

It's a hot summer night during World War II and Weegee is at Coney Island, using new infrared film to take pictures of lovers and other people hoping to find some relief from the heat on the beach.  He snaps a shot of a young woman alone in a lifeguard chair.

Two days later he gets a strange visitor: an angry man who somehow knows Weegee took a picture of the woman whom he claims was his sister. He offers an outrageous amount for the negative and any prints.  And then a woman's body is found...

Some nice twists and turns in this story which is rich in atmosphere.