Sunday, November 29, 2020

My People, by Liza Cody

 "My People," by Liza Cody, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November/December 2020.

This is Liza Cody's second appearance here.  It is not a conventional crime story a much as a reflection on the fact that, as another British author noted, "a policeman's lot is not a happy one."

I was standing with five other people, arms linked,. protecting a man dressed as a giant cauliflower who had superglued himself to Lambeth Bridge.

Well.  That's an opening gambit that certainly caught my attention.

Shareen Manasseh is our narrator, a Jewish woman whose family came to Britain from India.  She joined the police force and, without much training, was assigned to infiltrate the climate change activists - she calls them rebels - who shut down much of London and were threatening to do it again.

Her time with that group has her rethinking her allegiance.  Did she become a cop to get "black-and-white certainty" or because it was better "to be with the bullies than against them.  I was tired of being picked on; I just want to belong." 

Shareen's loyalties are put to the test when a protester is found dead.  Was this just an accident? Was he beaten in police custody?    Or is there a red wolf among the green lambs?

And most importantly: Is Shareen thinking like a cop or a rebel?

A fine  story with a lot of food for thought.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Death of Another Hero, by Susan Daly

"Death of Another Hero," by Susan Daly, in Ellen Hart Presets: Malice Domestic 15: Murder Most Theatrical, edited by Verona Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly Simmons, Wildside Press, 2020.

This is the second appearance in this space by Susan Daly. 

Once upon a time a local theatre group did a new version of Much Ado About Nothing to celebrate the town's hundredth anniversary.  Twenty-five years later they decide to do it again.  Some of the people involved have gone on to fame, none greater than  Gary Mortimer, now a slowly fading star  named Gareth Caulfield.  

But whatever you call him, he is an unpleasant person, and someone is after revenge. The question is: what kind?

The problem with an anthology with this narrow a focus is that a lot of the stories tend to resemble each other.  (Deaths on stage; ambitious understudies...)  Daly manages to break the pattern in interesting ways.  And the title is very clever indeed.


Monday, November 16, 2020

Woodstock, by Michael Bracken

 "Woodstock," by Michael Bracken, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November/December 2020.

This is the seventh appearance in this space by my fellow SleuthSayer Michael Bracken.  That puts him close to the top of the list of repeat offenders.  This time he is a long distance from his usual territory, both geographically and thematically.

It's August 1969 and Shirley Warner picks up a hitchhiker who explains he is on his way to a music festival near Woodstock, New York.  The hitcher, a hippie, decides she looks like a Shirley.  "A housewife.  Her old man takes the train into the city five days a week, expects dinner on the table and a fresh martini waiting when he gets home.  Most exciting thing a Shirley does is watch Wild Kingdom Sunday nights to see if Him Fowler gets mauled by something." 

Shirley's response?  She throws her wedding rings out the window.

And that is how the story proceeds.  Shirley's reaction to the famous Three Days of Peace and Music, tells us all we know (or need to know) about her immediate past.  By the time it is over her life is moving in a new direction.

A well-written story.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Handed, on a Gold Plate, by Robert Mangeot


"Handed, on a Gold Plate," by Robert Mangeot, in Mystery Weekly Magazine, November 2020.

This is the fifth appearance here by my fellow SleuthSayer, the very funny Robert Mangeot.  

Wade is an auditor and  he is about to achieve his life's ambition by representing the accounting firm on a lottery draw.  

It’s where a star auditor ride gets launched intro flash by intro flash if the auditor is poised enough, debonair enough, the public assured enough.

Perhaps he can work his way up to award shows!

But among the obstacles he faces are the lotto guy who doesn't want to hear a peep out of him.  "I’ll know a peep is coming because your brains will smoke cranking into peep mode."

But the bigger problem is his suspicion that the lottery draw has somehow been fixed.  If he doesn't speak up he is a failure as an auditor, but if he squeals and is wrong... hoo boy.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

My Simple Plan, by Ariel Gore


 "My Simple Plan," by Ariel Gore, in The Nicotine Chronicles, edited by Lee Child, Akashic Press, 2020.

The publisher sent me a free copy of this book.  Much appreciated.

All the stories in this book are about tobacco; not all are about crime.  This one definitely qualifies.

Our nameless narrator is stuck in a tiny village in Tuscany. The residents scorn him as a homosexual and, worse, an American.  But he has a plan for making big bucks.

The Italian tobacco workers are on strike and our hero has two backpacks full of precious ciggies.  He plans to wait a few days for desperation to build up and then sell individual smokes at a boomed-up price.

One tiny problem: someone who arrives in town with black market cigarettes is murdered.  And that means: 1. Someone in town is willing to kill for a smoke, and 2. Anyone with cartons of cigarettes is an obvious suspect for the killing.  So, that's two problems, really, and neither of them are tiny.

I saw one plot twist coming but another one delighted me.  Very clever story.