Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Clan, by Tony Richards

"The Clan," by Tony Richards, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2014.

I have written once before about Tony Richards' satisfying series of science-fiction mystery stories set in a near-future Federated Africa.  To my mind, this story is the best so far.

Abel Enetame has been promoted to captain in the African police for his work against people who would like to reduce the continent to the good old days of tribal warfare, but now he is pressured to go undercover against a new enemy.  The Anti-Caucasian Clan is attacking Caucafricans -- white citizens of the federated state.  Worse, they are killing them in impossible ways, getting in and out of locked rooms at will.

Abel goes undercover in situations that put him in ethically sticky situations and watching him slip around them is one of the pleasures of the story.  His method of defeating the impossible killers is the other.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Murder Town, by David Dean

"Murder Town," by David Dean, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2014.

My fellow SleuthSayer David Dean has written a fine story in the "Most Dangerous Game" variety.   Terry Holliday is in a Mexican prison for crimes he committed, and some he didn't.  his is not what you would call a model prison either.

'Of course, you realize that should you choose to stay with us here, you will surely die," the commandante offered smoothly.  He didn't appear to be particularly troubled by the possibility."

Holliday is presented with a chance to get away from the guards and fellow prisoners who want him dead.  It seems a group of wealthy philanthropists are running a parole program for certain prisoners.  Ah, but we already know that there is a catch.  The program sends him to Murder Town.

I have said before I enjoy stories in which characters have a chance at redemption, even if they choose not to take it.  Holliday has to find a way to survive, but he may also have a way to dig himself out of the moral pit he has trapped himself in. 

Lovely story with a very convincing view of Yucatan along the way.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Assets Protection, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

"Assets Protection," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2014.  

Rusch is one of my favorite current authors of mystery short stories, and this caper story is a good example of why.

Carla is an ex-con, gone straight after a fashion.  She gets hired by businesses to test their security, especially their susceptibility to high-level shoplifting schemes.

At a conference she sees Grady, the abusive cop who arrested her.  He is now living high on the hog as the head of security for a department store chain.  It doesn't take Carla long to discover that he has a sneaky money-making scheme of his own, and so she sets out to derail him.  "She needed to show Grady just what it was like to lose."

To do this she needs the help of a low-level celebrity, and fortunately she knows one, an actor named Jimmy who used to share her lawyer before he got famous.  He doesn't need the money, but he does crave a little larceny...

I would enjoy seeing these two in action again.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Art of Authentification, by Christopher Welch

"The Art of Authentification," by Christopher Welch., in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2014.

This is at least the fourth story by Welch in this series, but the first time he has made my best-of-the week list.  Bridgman is an art dealer in the Berkshires.  In each story he and his partner find themselves reluctantly involved in crimes related to art.

And let us pause to talk about one of the many things a mystery can do.  It can reveal details about some aspect of the world that most of us know nothing about.  In this case the subject is art authentification.

Bridgman's gallery contains some paintings by a recently deceased artist named Madie Balan.  The trust that supervises her estate insists that he can't legally sell them unless (and until) they authenticate them as genuine Balans.  But the members of the trust own some of her work, which means every work they declare genuine makes their own property less rare and therefore less valuable.

Conflict of interest?  You betcha.  But that's not the whole story, because determining whether the works are genuine may be impossible.  Apparently the artist sometimes started a work and let someone else finish it.  (Hey, so did Rembrandt...nothing new there.)  So the matter of real and fake is almost a matter of philosophy.

And I haven't even mentioned the murder. 

Two complaints about the story.  The protagonists don't actually solve it.  They merely accidentally cause the killer to reveal himself.  Yes, they fall into the category of amateur detectives, but that's a little more amateur than I prefer.

And second is a more personal gripe.  This story features characters named Bridgman, Balan,  Bess, and Bosch.  At two points the author and/or editor get confused and Bess becomes Beth.  There are twenty-six perfectly good letters in the alphabet.  Why torture the reader like that?