Sunday, May 29, 2016
Sugar, by Michael Bracken
I would say any writer who appears in this space twice in a year can think he's having a good year. That's not ego on my part; I would be happy if any non-relative thought I scored twice in one spin around the sun.
Mr. Bracken is making his second appearance at Little Big Crimes this month.
This story is about Samuel "Sugar" Cane, a Texas thug who has worked, since he was a crooked high school football player, for a crime boss named De La Rosa. As he goes about his daily work of collecting debts for the big man he meets a woman whose mother used to be his lover. Hmm..
A popular topic in writing circles is first person versus third. This story would be much less powerful if it were in first, or if we could tell what'd going on in Sugar's head. We ave to figure it out, which keeps the suspense high.
This story reminds me of Michael Koryta's "A People Person," which I wrote about here back in 2013. Both are about a thorough-going baddie who finds himself unexpectedly facing a line he may not be willing to cross.
And both are terrific stories.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
"Restoration" by Art Taylor.
My fellow SleuthSayer Art Taylor scores in the first issue of this new mystery fiction magazine, although a purist might say this one is more science fiction than mystery. Actually, it's both.
The narrator is a salesman, trying to convince a family to buy a restoration service. You see, they take a DNA sample and occasional brain scans, and then, if heaven forbid, you should die violently, they can whip up a clone of you in under a month, and family bliss is restored. Only violent deaths; the ethicists forbid interfering with natural exits. But, you know, there is so much violence these days.
The wife is all for it. The husband (and from the salesman's point of view, they have and need no other identities) is extremely dubious. Can our hero close the sale?
Here is our salesman explaining his work:
Discretion was key. And indirection. Euphemisms helped. You didn't talk about death at all, didn't even use the word, much less talk explicitly about the man who was shot in the eye while walking to lunch, or the woman who was tortured for hours before she was killed, or the children who...
No. Let the prospective clients put it together on their own.
I thought I saw where this story was going and I was totally wrong, which pleased me greatly.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
A Battlefield Reunion, by Brendan DuBois
The June issue of AHMM is awfully good, making it hard for me to pick winners. That's a better problem than the occasional weeks when I can't find a story I enjoy, so I won't complain.
This marks DuBois' sixth appearance in this space, tying him with Terence Faherty for first place.
It's 1946 in Boston. Billy Sullivan is a private eye with a guilty conscience because, as an Army MP, he spent most of the war out of harm's way, while his brother died in the infantry.
His client, Ronny Silver, is also having trouble with dealing with his war memories. But he recently spotted someone he knew from his time in Europe, a war correspondent who had promised to send the G.I.s photos. Ronny thinks if he can get those pictures he won't forget his buddies who died. Can Sullivan help him find the reporter?
If you have read any private eye fiction it won't be a spoiler if I tell you there is more going on than what appears on the surface. Interesting twists, interesting characters...
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Chase Your Dreams, by Michael Bracken
A very touching story by this year's winner of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement in the mystery short story.
Picture a small town in Texas, one so set in its ways that the whites and blacks still use seperate cemeteries. Cody is a gay man, deep in the closet. His secret lover, Chase, on the other hand, was "leading one-man Gay Pride parades."
When Chase disappears, Cody has to decide what is more important: finding out the truth, or staying safe?
"Nobody's filed a missing person report," Junior said. "Not sure anybody around here cares one way or the other."
"I could file a report."
Junior lowered his ice cream-laden spoon and stared straight into my eyes. "You might could," he said, "but are you sure you want to do that, Cody? People will talk."
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Shrink Rap, by Craig Faustus Buck
One thing that has always bugged me (trust me, there are others) is what I call the "different-with-me fallacy." A typical example would be: "Sure, my lover cheated on her husband, but this is different. She won't cheat on me because I am/we have something special." Like Oscar Wilde said about second marriages, it is the triumph of imagination over experience.
On the other hand, you might say that Talia, in this story, suffers from a lack of that fallacy. She used to have a lot of mental and addictive problems, but her wonderful psychologist cured her. And became her lover.
But he would never violate his professional ethics and their relationship by seducing another patient because... Uh, because...
If she suspects him of misbehaving is she suffering from paranoia, or merely pattern recognition?
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