Sunday, July 26, 2020

Colibrí, by Nicolás Obregón

"Colibrí," by Nicolás Obregón, in Both Sides: Stories From The Border, edited by Gabino Iglesias, Polis Books, 2020.

Milagros Posada is the deputy sheriff of a county near the Mexican border.  It is not a job that comes with much respect.

When the body of a dead Mexican teenager is found on the Fourth of July, Mili's boss, the elderly sheriff,  responds  that the "stiff'll keep till Monday."  Mili doesn't accept that and goes out to the scene. "I'm just hiking," she unconvincingly tells the Border Patrol man who finds her there.

There's no crime here except illegal border crossing and human smuggling.  The kid died of natural causes.

But Mili is determined to learn his identity and get the news back to his family.  Nobody else seems interested in the job.  It turns out Mili has tragedy in her past and is willing to use that as a tool to get information.

This is a quiet and moving story.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Cask of Los Alamos, by Cornelia Read

"The Cask of Los Alamos," by Cornelia Read, in Santa Fe Noir, edited by Ariel Gore, Akashic Press, 2020.

The publisher sent me a free copy of this book.

If you were to define stories from Akashic Press's Noir Cities series in one word, which words would show up the most often?  Grim, depressing, violent, affected, suspenseful, cynical...  How about quirky?  Probably not that often.

This story is quirky.  Let's start, reasonably enough, with the first line.

The thousand injuries of Richard Feynman I had borne as best I could. But when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.

If that sentence, together with the title, does not immediately bring a certain short story to mind then you need to enroll immediately in Remedial Mystery Reading 101. 

We are in a historical mystery (also a rarity in the Noir Cities books), not going back to the time of Edgar Allan Poe (except in spirit) but to World War II.  The Manhattan Project is toiling away in New Mexico and our narrator, Thurston, has taken a deep grudge against his fellow physicist.

A good deal of this story is based on Feynman's actual life, and I was amazed to realize how little I had known about it.  For example, the way he chose to watch the first atomic explosion is drawn from life.

Read has combined these true details with her fictional character's plot which is, of course, modeled on Poe's.  She carries off this combination with great panache.  Does Thurston succeed in killing Feynman, turning this into an alternative history story?  Or i this an altogether different type of tale?

Wouldn't you like to know?

Sunday, July 12, 2020

No Honor Among Thieves, by Rob Hart

"No Honor Among Thieves," by Rob Hart, in Lockdown: Stories of Crime, Terror, and Hope During a Pandemic, edited by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle, PolisBooks, 2020.

The proceeds for this book go to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, a very worthy cause.

This is the third appearance in this column by Rob Hart.

Roger is a banker.  He is working from home due to Covid but he needs to get some files he can't access electronically.  Why aren't they available digitally?  Because they contain data you don't dare expose to hackers, stuff that could get people sent to jail.

It turns out other people want those files too.  People who are more determined than he is...

A nice bad guy versus worse guy story.

By the way, Ann Davila Cardinal has a very nice ghost story in this book, but I don't review ghost stories.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Setting the Pick, by April Kelly

"Setting the Pick," by April Kelly, in Mystery Weekly Magazine, July 2020.

Today's story is about an anonymous private eye, of somewhat dodgy ethics, setting up a bad guy to take a fall.  It's fun to try to figure out what our protagonist is up to.

And the writing is fun too. Our P.I. describes his appearance: "A guy a few birthday cakes north of forty, with thinning hair, a slight limp in his left leg, and a suit straight out of a Motel 6 lost and found."