Sunday, March 29, 2015

I Wish I Had Your Job, by Ted Fitzgerald.

"I Wish I Had Your Job," by Ted Fitzgerald.   The Private Eye Writers of America present Fifty Shades of Grey Fedora, edited by Robert J. Randisi, Riverdale Avenue Books, 2015.

It has been many years since PWA put out an anthology and, as you can tell by the title, this time they went with a theme: private eyes and sex.  Some qualify as erotica, some not so much.

Mr. Fitzgerald's is my favorite so far.  Notice the title of the story?  The first line is: No, you don't.

Tex Texeira is a private eye and one of his clients is an adult magazine.  He checks out potential centerfolds for them, making sure they have no outstanding warrants and at least eighteen orbits of the sun. 

Some of his friends think this is a great job, hence the title.  Tex is not so sure.  He spends most of his time doing background checks, not so much with the potential models, whom he is forbidden to get involved with, anyway.

The latest candidate is Dulce Nunes, but it looks like she may not be interested.  It appears that her mother got a couple of naked photographs of Dulce and sent them to the magazine.  Here's the loving mama: "Dulce's strong-willed.  She won't say what she doesn't want to say, but expects you to listen to whatever it is that she wants to say when she wants to say it.  Make a great husband for someone, that girl."

  Dulce has disappeared, and her past has some definite shadows.  When Tex tries to investigate he gets beaten up by four bikers.   Is she a damsel in distress or is something else going on?

A solid, witty, private eye story.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chin Yong-Yun Meets A Ghost, by S.J. Rozan

"Chin Yong-Yun Meets A Ghost," by S.J. Rozan, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March-April 2015.

My buddy S.J. Rozan does her best work in the first person.  She started out writing stories about New York private eye Bill Smith.  When she switched to novels she added Smith's occasional partner Lydia Chin.  Now there is a third voice in that universe.  This is the second story told by Lydia's formidable mother.

And what a wonderful voice Mrs. Chin has.  "The other ladies agreed with me, as they often do, because I am usually right."  

The lady is making dinner when she gets a phone call from Gerald Yu.  This is annoying for three reasons.  First, Yu is a gambler and not very bright.  Second, he wants to involve daughter Lydia in his troubles.  And third, he happens to be dead.

"It's about my death, but it's not vengeance I'm after.  Also, it's not really about my death, because I'm not dead."
"Who told you that?  They're lying."

I almost wrote that Chin seems confused about whether Yu is alive or a ghost, but that would be precisely wrong.  She is completely unconcerned about the question, and seems to find the two conditions fluid.

So she decides to solve Yu's puzzle to keep her daughter from getting involved.  Her daughter disapproves of her doing detective work.

"Why?"  I asked her quite innocently.  "Is it dangerous?"

Try to think of a way Lydia could answer that one.

Wonderful, character, wonderful story.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

First Dragon, by Martin Limón

"First Dragon," by Martin Limón, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, April 2015.

I think this may be the first fiction my friend Martin Limón has written that is not set in Korea.  For
this new series he slipped a few miles over the border into Manchuria.

Il Yong, the title character, is the son of an American serviceman and a Korean mother, who did various classified jobs for Defense contractor and is now the head of security for a medical missionary group.  They are supposed to be helping the Chinese peasants but they don't turn away starving North Korean refugees who slip over from the Hermit Kingdom.

But that's not the current problem.  A group of Manchurian bandits have kidnapped an American nurse.  Il Yong has both professional and personal reasons to want to get her back, no matter the danger.

Fascinating story.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Trouble With Virgins, by Thomas K. Carpenter.

"The Trouble With Virgins," by Thomas K. Carpenter, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2015.

Interesting title. 

This first story by the author of several historical novels is set in first century A.D. Alexandria. Magistrate Ovid, an unambitious son of Roman aristocrats, has the job of administering justice in a section of the city.  Alas, he finds himself between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

A vestal virgin informs him that a crime has been committed: a body has been burned in the city proper.  The culprit, a young man, cheerfully admits to the crime.  But his father, a senator, demands that Ovid find him innocent.  Either the virgin or the senator can destroy Ovid's career.  How can he satisfy both?

The answer requires a knowledge of Roman law and a willingness to stretch the truth.  Very clever story.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Man With The Twisted Lip, by Terence Faherty

"The Man With The Twisted Lip," by Terence Faherty, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2015.

Last week I noted that Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Brendan Dubois were tied for first place with five appearances in my best-of-the-week list.  By coincidence, a third writer enters that august rank today.

My former co-blogger Terence Faherty has come up with a great gimmick.  He claims to have discovered Dr. John Watson's notebooks, containing the rough drafts of Sherlock Holmes adventures, before they were "cleaned up for publication."  This is the fourth such publication and I consider it a significant improvement of the oroginal, which was not one of Doyle's masterpieces.

Both versions begin with a woman calling at the home of Watson and his wife, desperate because her husband has disappeared.  In Doyle's version the man is a drug addict and has vanished into an opium den.  In Faherty's tale the same man is a serial philanderer and is apparently staying in a hotel of bad repute.  In both tales Watson finds Holmes there in disguise but what he is seeking is different - although the solution has some amusing similarities. 

I won't go into detail.  Watson correctly notes that the story has the elements of a French farce and Holmes says he is just trying to prevent it from turning into a Greek tragedy.

"My husband returns!" Rita exclaimed.
"Not a moment too soon," Holmes said.
"You don't understand.  He's insanely jealous.  And violent.  If he finds me in here--"
Holmes sprang up.  "Watson, I bow to your experience.  Under the bed?"

Heresy of the best kind.  And it provides an answer to one of the eternal questions debated by players of the Game.