Sunday, November 5, 2017

"The Black Hand," by Peter W.J. Hayes

"The Black Hand," by Peter W.J. Hayes, in  Malice Domestic: Murder Most Historical, edited by Verena Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly, Simmons.

It seems like every year or so I have to chide some editors who don't know what a noir story is supposed to be.  Today I feel like I have the same problem in reverse. Sort of.

I am not sure of the definition of a "Malice Domestic" story, but I know this one is not what I expected, or what the rest of the anthology (so far) led me to anticipate.  Hayes' story is not cozy.  It would, on the other hand, would feel quite cozy between the pages of Black Mask, circa 1928, which is around the time it is set.

Brothers Jake and David fought over a girl named Bridgid and Jake left Pittsburgh for logging work in the midwest.  David became a very successful mobster, until his body shows up in a river.

The story begins with Jake coming home to try to discover how his brother died and who is responsible.  The first thing he learns is that Bridgid was murdered a few weeks before, and a lot of people think David killed her.  Is there a connection between the deaths?  Can Jake stay alive long enough to find out?

This is an excellent salute to a classic subgenre of pulp fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Rob — As one of the folks on the selection committee for this anthology, I can maybe provide a little insight. While Malice Domestic is in general committed to the traditional mystery in the style of Agatha Christie, for example, we did seem to be given more leeway in terms of judging the submissions we received. At one point, I actually asked about the content of another submission because I felt like it was too too far outside of some of the definition of what I'd think of as a traditional mystery, and I was told to judge on merit of story first and foremost. (That story didn't ultimately get included, I should add; not sure how other members of selection committee judged it.)

    I do think that most of the stories in the anthology match requirements of traditional mystery; that may be just the result of the audience of writers here, the folks who knew about the call because of being tuned in to the conference in the first place. And I hope that the audience of readers will be pleased both by the traditional stories here and by the few that step away from the tradition set down by Christie (or Conan Doyle or Ellery Queen or maybe P.D. James or Sue Grafton or... well, breadth in that definition too as you widen out).

    Either way, this is indeed a great story, and I appreciate you giving it attention—and the anthology overall too, of course! I was proud to be associated with it.