Sunday, May 17, 2020

Borrowed Brains, by Alaric Hunt

"Borrowed Brains," by Alaric Hunt, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May/June 2020.

Funny thing: last month I was listening to an audiobook of short stories from Black Mask Magazine.  This novella is from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine's Black Mask department, and it is a perfect fit.  I must say I liked it better than some of the stories I heard from the classic magazine.

But this tale takes place in modern times (2005, to be exact), complete with cell phones, bodegas, and audio bugs.

Daniel McLaren, an aging West Virginian rumrunner, is happy working as a messenger in New York City, but when he gets beaten and robbed of a half-million dollar package the cops decide that the ex-convict is obviously guilty - or at least convenient to blame.

Fortunately McLaren has a buddy in the city, a fellow native of the Mountain State named Clayton Guthrie.  And Guthrie is a private eye.  Together they start to unravel a complicated fraud scheme that is going badly wrong, with possibly deadly consequences.

There is some wonderful writing in this story: "The alley was wide enough for two round trash cans and a cat."

Or here is McLaren casting some doubt on the reliability of a witness:

"You didn't notice his hat was lined with tinfoil?"
"I see a lot of that in Brooklyn.  Up in the Bronx, they wear their underwear outside their pants." 

And here is McLaren listening to the bad guys on a bug.

That sounds like the stupid one," and "No, maybe that's the stupid one."

A long ride, but a good one.

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