Saturday, September 26, 2020

Terrible Ideas, by Gregory Fallis

 "Terrible  Ideas," by Gregory Fallis, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2020.

It's unusual, I think for a private eye story to travel, third-person, through the heads of more than one character.  But this one does and it works.

Clayton Ellicott is the first viewpoint character.  He is the only fulltime lawyer for Midwest Center for Artists' Rights and most of his work is pretty boring: copyright, contacts, and so on.  

The exception is Triscuit, a petty thief who discovers a talent for photography after stealing an expensive camera.  It isn't the theft that gets him in trouble, though.  That would be a day he spent in the park taking pictures, some of them in the vicinity of small children.  Parents didn't like that.  When the police were called and saw that he was "a six-foot-two bearded man of mixed race" they didn't like it either.

Triscuit knew how to behave around hostile cops, but now he was an artist and they were demanding to see his camera.  He did not react well to that, which is how Ellicott the lawyer got involved.

Things escalate when a teenager girl goes missing from that same park.  Triscuit gets arrested and our lawyer calls in Hockney, a private eye.  

It helped that [Hockney] looked younger than she really was; it helped that she was attractive without being pretty.  it helped that she was slender and lissome and not at all threatening.

It all helped her to be a more effective detective.  But she resented it.  She resented that people -- women included -- took one look at her and immediately, automatically underestimated her...

And here she is talking to Triscuit, who is in jail: 

There's a sixteen-year-old white girl missing and the police think you had something to do with it.  Jesus couldn't get you out of here tonight.

A satisfying story with a surprising (but not twist) ending. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Cough, by Lynn Chandler Willis

 "The Cough," by Lynn Chandler Willis, in Writers Crushing COVID-19, edited by Lawrence Kelter, LightSpeed Books, 2020.

There's been a sort of race going on this year and, as far as I know, Willis is the winner.  She is the first person to get a story published in which COVID masks are used by robbers as a disguise.  You knew it had to be coming. 

That's not why this story is my best of the week, of course. The reason is that it is an amusing story of incompetent criminals.

Marty and Dwayne are hoping to rob a bank but the virus lockdown means that only drive-thru's are open. Foiled again!

Marty is the brains of the operation (and that is a low bar).  Dwayne seems as happy to score some toilet paper as he would be with the contents of a bank safe.

But our hero thinks of a way to rob the WalMart.  You my not be astonished that things don't go perfectly.  You may be even less astonished that COVID is involved.

My favorite line: When the two guys get separated and complain someone asks Marty: "You his emotional support animal or something?" 


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Kevin of the Dead, by Eoin Colfer


"Kevin of the Dead," by Eoin Colfer, in The Strand Magazine, Feb.-May 2020.

A page into this story I found myself hoping a crime would show up.  It was by no means a sure thing that that would happen, and I only review crime stories.  Fortunately, the story turned sufficiently criminous, as Ellery Queen used to say, to meet my standards.

So what is this about if not primarily crime?

It's a vampire story.  But Kevin is not your classic suave gothic (or goth) undead master of minds.  He's a whiny emo young man with a lot to complain about.  

"In my opinion there's a real market for vampire counsellors.  Someone to guide you through the process.  It's very traumatic waking up dead, I can tell you.  Not as traumatic as high school but pretty close."     

Our boy had a hard time getting along with people when he was alive and things haven't improved since he snuffed it.  Colfer offers us a more (dare I say?) realistic look at the undead lifestyle and it's hilarious.  Kevin goes out each night looking for blood but he also hopes his victim has "Netflix on her phone so I can catch up on Stranger Things."

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Golden Lives, by Joseph S. Walker


"Golden Lives," by Joseph S. Walker, in Mystery Weekly Magazine, September, 2020.

Annalee Lincoln left the army due to an accident that removed her foot.  Three months later she is home because her brother Ike died, in another accident.  This one happened while he was attempting to commit a rather stupid felony.

Annalee has trouble grasping that, because Ike was the smart one.  They were raised by their worthless uncle and Annalee feels the guilt common of older siblings who escape from a toxic home and have to leave the younger ones to cope without them.  

She can't bring him back but can she figure out what happened?  And maybe find love along the way?

Very satisfactory story.