"Do Not Disturb," by Steve Hockensmith, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July/August 2019.
This is the fourth appearance in this column by my friend and fellow SleuthSayer Steve Hockensmith. And it's a very different story from him. I expect shorter,usually comic pieces but this is a straight-forward novella. And while he often writes about the old west this is, I think, the first time I have read him delving into the 1940s.
In fact it is 1940 in New York. Colleen Flynn, a former cop, is an assistant hotel detective at the Grand American, a second-string house. "The guys from Ford and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and General Foods stayed elsewhere. The Grand American got Studebaker and Republic Pictures and Dr. Ross's Dog and Cat Food."
And the hotel also got a death. Longtime guest Laurence Kaufman hung himself in the shower. Except one of the maids, a Polish refugee, informs Colleen that he was probably murdered. Colleen investigates although her boss points out that her boss points out that bringing bad guys to justice is no longer her job.
Actually, the boss is one of the pleasant surprises in this story, since he goes quite against type.
I wonder if this is to be part of a series because we are definitely left wondering about our heroine. What's her backstory? Why did she leave the force?
Ah, so many mysteries.
Monday, August 19, 2019
Monday, August 12, 2019
This is a books of stories by members of the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Our narrator is an identity thief and she cheerfully explains all the tricks of her trade. She's verygood at it but she gets a little too obsessed with her latest conquest, if I may use that term. She not only steals Nadine Gale's credit cards and steals her money, but she starts dressing like her. Even though, she insists, it's nothing personal.
Nadine, the original Nadine, oddly enough, gets quite grumpy about all this. She even tracks her copy down but is unable to get any restitution. But she doesn't quit easily.
Watch out, Nadine. Nadine is on your trail. I didn't see what was coming in this twisty tale.
Monday, August 5, 2019
All the stories in this book are inspired by Steely Dan songs. I must confess I am not a huge fan of the band, having their greatest hits album and no more. Had never heard "Black Cow" as far as I know. But the story is good.
In French black is noir, and this story certainly qualifies. To review: in essence noir is the American Dream curdled and spoiled. A person of no importance tries to Make Something of Himself (could be a herself, but it usually isn't), but his plan is inherently flawed, since it involves robbing a bank, or killing his girlfriend's husband, or... Bad things happen.
So, this story is classic noir. It is also in second person singular, which I find annoying. As I have said before, first versus third is a choice. Second is always a gimmick. But it didn't bother me this time.
Our protagonist, "You," meets Debra in a bar. She is an attractive woman, and very upset because she just discovered her husband Kenny is cheating on her.
You should be asking yourself why you're willing to exploit a woman in such a fragile state, but instead find yourself wondering how Cheatin' Kenny makes bank.
So, You are in the market for a little adulterous fun and it turns out Debra is too. It would be wise if You left it at that but noir doesn't work like that. Instead You become obsessed and arrange to meet Debra again. And again...
If you have read much noir you can already list a few ways this story can turn out. If any of the classic angles had been used this story would probably not be my pick of the week. Hull has found a new and original hole to drop her protagonist into and I liked it a lot.
Sunday, July 28, 2019
Third appearance here by Richardson. Chris met Kevin when they were both playing hockey in high school. Kevin was trouble back then, dealing drugs, doing worse things. Now its twenty-years later and he sees only one way out of his difficulty. Swap faces, and lives, with Chris. Chris isn't in favor of this but, hey, he doesn't get a vote.
Highly implausible but as fast moving as a hockey game.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
I wonder if the aging of the baby-boomers is going to result in a glut of crime fiction about dealing with dementia, incontinence, and nursing homes? Or are we already there?
Enid suffers from dementia. Can't really speak. Wonders why an adult woman is claiming to be her little daughter.
But when a man slips into her room and starts rifling through her belongings she knows he doesn't belong there. Turns out he's a neighbor. Turns out she's the only one who knows what he's up to, and other people are getting in trouble for his crimes.
Can Enid find a way to reveal the truth? Her solution, very clever indeed, is actually quite biblical.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
I have a fondness for the Black Orchid Novella Award, and not just because I won it once. Co-sponsored by AHMM and the Wolfe Pack, it is intended to honor and promote the novella genre used by one of my favorite authors, Rex Stout. The rules do not require you to copy Stout's format, but most of the winners do. (Typically that means a mastermind detective, a narrator/legman, and a final gathering of suspects.)
Let's get to Mark Bruce's winning entry. In 1962 Carson Robinson is a private eye in Sacramento, California. He was recently in the army, in "a place you never heard of called Vietnam... I was an advisor." They didn't like his advice, which was "to get out of that godforsaken jungle as fast as we could..."
He is hired by Minerva James, a famous defense lawyer.
Why would a high-class act like Minerva James summon a beaten veteran like me? I had only just obtained my license after two years of struggle and an initial failure to pass the licensing exam.
There is a murder case but she makes it clear that their job is not to catch a killer but to find evidence to exculpate her client.
"Mr Robinson, if I asked you to do something dirty and underhanded, would you do it?"
"No," I said. She looked at me in surprise.
"II thought you needed work," she said.
"I need a soul too."
It's going to be an interesting relationship. Makes for a good story.
Monday, July 8, 2019
This is the third appearance here by McCormick and the second for Quintus the Clever. But our hero, if that's the right word, takes a while to arrive.
The story is set during the rule of Caligula the mad in the Roman empire. The narrator is Camilla Tertia, which is to say, the third Camilla. ("Siblings with identical names, especially amongst girls, were common in conservative and affluent families...")
Tertia is twelve and, she reports proudly, "already considered far and wide the scoundrel and gossip of the family." Reports have not been exaggerated.
Her sister Secunda is about to make an unhappy marriage. Tertia decides it can be prevented if her expensive engagement ring is lost - a bad omen! And who better to make it disappear than the luckless thief she meets after he is caught and whipped?
Quintus is clever enough to want nothing to do with her - what's Latin for hellcat? - but she doesn't give him much choice. The best part of the story is their conversations.
"Be an honest man, Quintus, and rob my sister!"