Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Monkey's Ghost, by Rosalind Barden

"The Monkey's Ghost," by Rosalind Barden, in History and Mystery, Oh My!, edited by Sarah E. Glenn, Mystery and History, LLC, 2015.

The publisher's sent me a copy of this book for free. 

This story is mostly about setting, if you stretch setting to include the minor characters, which I think you can.

The narrator grew up during the depression in the Bunker Hill neighborhood of Los Angeles.

To live there was the height of fashion in the Gay Nineties of the previous century,.  The prominent families of the day decorated Bunker Hill's steep streets with colorful candy-like fantasies of Victorian homes.

But by the 1930s the area had fallen on hard times and the narrator and her family live in an apartment building surrounded by these old homes and some old, eccentric neighbors.  One of them (according to a local gossip, an elderly magician) was the only child of a wealthy man, and she married a scoundrel who abandoned her.  But first he bought her a monkey, and the story goes, one day she threw the ape out the window, killing it.  Or maybe the monkey was already dead. Or maybe it wasn't a monkey...

Naturally the local kids become obsessed with this strange story.  I did not expect the outcome.  This was a fun read.

Little Big News: Arthur Ellis announced

The Crime Writers of Canada announced the winners of their Arthur Ellis Awards this week.  The ones that concern us here are:

Best Novella *
Jas. R. Petrin, A Knock on the Door, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Best Short Story 
Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress, McClelland & Stewart

*CWC announces the Lou Allin Memorial Award of $200 for the Arthur Ellis Novella Category
Sponsored by the 2011 Bloody Words Conference Committee, this award will be given in honour of Lou Allin.  Lou was a board member of CWC, a co-chair of the 2011 Bloody Words Conference, an award-winning writer, and a mentor to many.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Little Big News: My 25th encounter with Alfred Hitchcock

The July/August issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine is on newsstands now (and available for purchase on the web).  It starts with "Shooting at Firemen," my 25th appearance in that distinguished journal.  You can read the backstory here.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Theory of Murder, by Dennis Palumbo

"A Theory of Murder," by Dennis Palumbo, in And All Our Yesterdays, edited by Andrew MacRae, Darkhouse Books, 2015.


Mea culpa: It took me so long to get around to reading this book that I forgot how I received it.  I should say it was a gift from the publisher.

Wish I'd thought of that.

It's Bern, Switzerland, 1904.  Hector, a clerk in the patent office, is suspected of a series of grisly murders.  Luckily a friend of his, also a patent clerk, is looking into the crimes.  And Albert Einstein is a pretty bright guy...

You may know that 1905 was the "Annus Mirabilis" in which Einstein published four papers that turned Physics on its head.  In this story we see him pondering on some of these points, providing some of the most amusing moments.

For example, he shows up at Hector's house in the middle of the night:

"My God, Albert, do you know the time?"

"More intimately than most, I promise you." 

A very clever story.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Beethoven House, by Albert Tucher

"The Beethoven House," by Albert Tucher, in And All Our Yesterdays, edited by Andrew MacRae, Darkhouse Books, 2015.  

Mea culpa: It took me so long to get around to reading this book that I forgot how I received it.  I should say it was a gift from the publisher.

Last year I noted in this space how cold war spy stories tend to center on Berlin.  In the highlight, so far, of this collection of historical mysteries,  Mr. Tucher moves southeast to another hotbed of espionage: the capital of neutral Austria.

It is 1955, three years after Vienna ceased to be a divided city.  Benjamin is a CIA agent and a local cop calls to inform him that one of his contacts has been found murdered.  Apparently Wolfi Stendl had acquired two tickets to the hottest show in town - the grand reopening of the Opera, after many years of reconstruction after the war.  Why did someone want those seats enough to kill for them?

There are wheels within wheels here, betrayals of betrayals, which as Benjamin notes, is the Viennese way.  An entertaining story of the bad old days.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Borrowed Time, by Mat Coward

"On Borrowed Time," by Mat Coward, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 2015.

I'm a big fan of Mat Coward's funny stories about muddled and desperate  criminals.  The hero, if that's the word I'm looking for, in this story is Nash, a British public servant, of sorts.  He is paid by the government but he is frank that he works for big business.  The job of the Section is to spy on labor leaders, and non-profits, anyone who might upset the corporate status quo.  His personal tasks include secretly opening the mail of a major union boss.

And one day he finds a very expensive watch in the man's mail. Being desperate for money - we don't find out why until much later - he swipes it.  Then he gets worried that - well...

There were several people he might need to kill, and the way he saw it, if all of them were still alive a week from now, that'd be the nearest thing to a proper result he'd have achieved in years.  

It's always good to have goals.
 
Indeed it is.  You might not think a civil servant would be well-equipped to kill people, but you wouldn't know about the special training sessions the Section provides for it's worker bees. 

Nash had once attended an upskilling weekend on The Rudiments of Self-Defence, which included rudiments such as how to sneak up behind someone in the dark and self-defend yourself against them with a garrotte.

 A very funny tale with a lot of pointed comments on the world we find ourselves living in

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Anthony nominees

The head honchos of Bouchercon 2015 (Raleigh, NC in October) have announced the nominees for the Anthony Awards.  Congratulations to all!  Here are the ones that matter to us short story freaks.



Best Short Story
"Honeymoon Sweet" Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014 - Craig Faustus Buck [Down & Out]
"The Shadow Knows" Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays - Barb Goffman [Wildside]
"Howling at the Moon" Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 - Paul D. Marks [Dell]
"Of Dogs & Deceit" Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 - John Shepphird [Dell]
"The Odds Are Against Us" Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov 2014 - Art Taylor [Dell]

Best Anthology or Collection
FaceOff - David Baldacci, ed. [Simon & Schuster]
Murder at the Beach: The Bouchercon Anthology 2014 - Dana Cameron, ed. [Down & Out]
Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen - Joe Clifford, ed. [Gutter]
In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon - Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger, eds. [Pegasus Crime]
Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Love, Lust, and Longing - Karen Pullen, ed. [Wildside]

Sunday, May 3, 2015

An Invisible Minus Sign, by Denise Mina

"An Invisible Minus Sign," by Denise Mina, in Deadly Housewives, edited by Christine Matthews, HarperCollins e-books, 2015.

Many of the stories I have read in this collection have been jollyish tales of women trying to kill errant husbands, so this detour to noir stands out for contrast.

Moira is a housewife, sick of making no impression on the world.

She no longer knew if she liked strong cheddar or the boys did, whether France was somewhere she wanted to go on holiday or David's choice.  And she didn't even think she liked the hidden Moira enough to send out a search party.

After trying to revive herself with an affair "and a hundred other suburban redemptions," she decides to kill herself.

Of course, she doesn't.  Something else happens and I can't tell you what, but it is worth finding out.  But the main attraction in this story is the language, as demonstrated above.

Agatha Awards

The Agatha Awards were given out last night at Malice Domestic.  Here are the nominees for short story, with the winner on top.  Congratulations to all!

Best Short Story:
“The Odds are Against Us” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014
“Premonition” by Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays
“Just Desserts for Johnny” by Edith Maxwell
“The Blessing Witch” by Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave