“Powder Goes Hunting” by Michael Z. Lewin. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, February 2011. Last week I wrote about Keller, a hitman who happens to be a very sympathetic character. This week I was introduced to Leroy Powder, a good cop who is a very UNsympathetic character. How can the bad guys seem nice and the good guys irritate us? Not unusual, I guess. Storytelling is full of characters (Holmes, Rumpole, Wolfe, House, etc.) who sound like wonderful fun but you know that if you had to put up with them on a regular basis you would want to strangle them.
Lieutenant Leroy Powder has apparently offended enough people in the Indianapolis police department that he has been booted from detective to Roll Call officer. When the story opens he is about to make himself even more popular by investigating the deer flu – that is, cops who call in sick on the first day of deerhunting season.
As it turns out Powder finds something more dastardly than playing hooky, and along the way he has a chance to work on his goal of making his people into better cops – although it would have been nice to see whether his effort with one impatient officer paid off.
But here is an example of what I mean by saying he is unsympathetic. In one scene he is chatting with a friend (and apparently ex-lover) who was put in a wheelchair by a bullet. When he finds out that she used to be a hunter he asks: “What do you do now? Sit out in the yard with food on your hand and get the wild creatures to come to you? Then strangle them?”
Keller might murder you, but at least he won’t be rude about it.