Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Devil to Pay, by David Edgerley Gates

"The Devil to Pay," by David Edgerley Gates, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, April 2012.

If you like Elmore Leonard's casserole's fo good guys/bad guys plotting against each other, you should enjoy this story.  Tommy Meadows, fresh out of jail, is just what the FBI needs to find out what happened to a shipment of guns and ammo intended for the Army.  All he has to do is stay alive long enough to outsmart the Russian mob.  Good luck with that, Tommy boy.

I think the main reason this story made my weekly hit list is the two words a femaie fed makes after shooting someone.  Hilarious.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wrecked, by Therese Greenwood

"Wrecked" by Therese Greenwood, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2012.
Some stories are about plot.  Some are about suspense, or language.  This one is all about character.

The narrator is Rosie, who runs a small-town auto wrecker.  She's interesting in her own way, with her fatalism about her business and her pride in her nephew the cop who was "the grade-two knock-knock joke champion of St. Paul's school."  And there is her mechanic Gary, who can't stop being snotty to that same cop, no matter how ill-advised his attitude is, or how bad his jokes are.

But the star of the show is Floyd the Buddhist, a senior citizen Vietnam vet, who makes his living delivering Vietnamese food and constantly babbles karma-speak.   Why is he always scrounging used car parts?  "My vehicle strives for rebirth."

When a murdered man is found in the car crushing machinery Rosie will need help from all these characters to catch the bad guy.

Fun story.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rolling Rivera, by Steven Torres

"Rolling Rivera," by Steven Torres, in The Precinct Puerto Rico Files.  2012.

I am not the first to notice that detective fiction tends to flourish only in democracies.  In fact, I think you could make a case that the popularity of different genres of crime stories gives you a sort of national temperature.  When World War I and Prohibition made us cynical about the powers that be, we stopped reading classical mysteries (in which the bad guy was brought to governmental justice) and turned to hard-boiled (in which the law is corrupt and the good guy is on his own).  Nowadays we seem to have thrillers (confirmation for the paranoids among us) and noir (nourishment for nihilists).

I was pondering this as I read The Precinct Puerto Rico Files, an e-book that Steven Torres was kind enough to send me.  His hero usually solves the crime, but he can't solve the underlying economic social problems that caused the mess, and will cause more.  So justice becomes a little, shall we say, ad lib.

I should explain that the hero, Luis Gonzalo, is the sheriff of Angustias (the anguishes) a small mountain town in Puerto Rico.  The time is the 1970s.

A good example of my thesis is "Rolling Rivera."  Abraham Rivera, an abusive husband and father, lives in a wheelchair because of an earlier drunken folly.  He is found dead, run over on a road.  The legal question is: was it another booze-soaked accident, or did someone set him up to be killed?  And the bigger question is: if the latter, should we prosecute or celebrate?

Another very good story in this book is "The Driver," in which a small mistake builds up, with the inevitability of Greek tragedy, into a pointless disaster.  One more thing I really liked about the book was the brief note Torres placed after each story explaining where he got the idea.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Wood-Smoke Boys by Doug Allyn

"Wood-Smoke Boys," by Doug Allyn, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2012.

When I was ten years old, my favorite uncle murdered my favorite aunt.

Thus begins a wonderfully-written story of country folk versus city folk in the north woods of Michigan.  Dylan LaCrosse is the narrator and his back woods family suffers some terrible times, but they don't suffer quietly, which leads to the local warning: "Never cross a LaCrosse."

Now Dylan is a cop and state police are coming in to investigate the murder of a state legislator who caused tragedy to the LaCrosse family.  Can Dylan stay alive and solve the puzzle?  And whose side is he on?

Two more wonderful lines from the story:

In the deep woods, amid the shadows and feral silences, man's place atop the food chain is still up for debate.

The kid's mentally challenged.  His rat-bastard brothers use him for a guard dog to save the price of Alpo.