Monday, December 28, 2020

Clickbait, by Mark R. Kehl

"Clickbait," by Mark R. Kehl, in Mickey Finn, volume 1, edited by Michael Bracken, Down & Out Books, 2020.

The night of the home invasion, Bobby Lyon was busy jabbing a seventy-three-old index finger at his smart phone, reading reactions to the day's auction.

 That's how we start.  Lyon is a washed-up action movie star, now in a wheelchair, waiting to be moved into a senior home after his possessions were sold to pay ex-wives, the IRS, etc.  But now he may be getting more action than he wants...

I guessed where this story was going, but not every good tale needs a surprise ending.  This one is mostly about heightened language.

The despair that had grown familiar since the world had started tearing away his life in increasingly larger and bloodier chunks embraced him like a ravenous ghost.

Another sound, heavy but muffled, like Frankenstein's monster in bunny slippers.

...words and low laughs, both respectful and irreverent at the same time, like atheists in church.

Mr. Kehl is a master of similes.

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Mailman, by Andrew Welsh-Huggins

 "The Mailman," by Andrew Welsh-Huggins, in Mickey Finn, volume 1, edited by Michael Bracken, Down & Out Books, 2020.

This is the author's third appearance on this page.  

When was the last time I reviewed a good 'ol suspense story?  Been a while, I think.

The nameless protagonist is a deliveryman.  He tells his contact that he has never lost a package.

"A package?" his contact replies.  "Jesus Christ, we're talking about a woman.  A mother and child."

As the story goes on we learn more about why the couple is on the run, and the danger they face.  Because some of the rules get broken the deliveryman finds himself in deep trouble: one small man with no gun up against two bigger, heavily armed toughs.  

Will he find a way to deliver the goods?  I'm rooting for him.  You will find the outcome satisfactory.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Tell Him No, by Scott Turow


"Tell Him No," by Scott Turow, in California Schemin', edited by Art Taylor, Wildside Press, 2020.

What kind of work can an 81-year-old private eye do?  Running and fist-fighting seem to be out of the question.  High-tech is a non-starter.  

But one thing an old dude can do easily is be ignored.  And that's a very good thing for surveillance.

Tim Brodie, ex-cop, is following Dykstra, a man who wants to sell his business to Tim's employer.  Listening in on his conversations turns out to be easy because Dykstra "was the kind who thought they'd invented the cellphone so everyone in the vicinity would know he was important."  Boy, do I know that guy.  

It's fun watching Brodie watching his target, and then learning what he figured out, and how his boss could use it.  An entertaining tale.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Underneath it all Runs the River of Sadness, by Oto Oltvanji

"Underneath it all Runs the River of Sadness," by Oto Oltvanji, in Belgrade Noir, edited by  Milorad Ivanovic, Akashic Press, 2020.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  So said Ralph Waldo Emerson.  

I wanted to begin with that because I have often criticized the fine folks at Akashic Press - who sent me a free copy of this book - for including stories in their Noir Cities series that are not noir.  But here I am about to praise a story that also misses the noir mark.

I'm inconsistent.  So sue me.  But this is a fine, sweet, story.

Ranko and Kozma are neighbors and old friends.  Kozma is the troublemaker.  As a cop he did little but paperwork and now, in retirement, he is desperate to actually solve a crime for once.  His attempts to find villainy where there may be none has gotten him into hot water with the police and the neighborhood.

But now, just maybe, he could be onto something.  There's a man on the fourth floor, he tells Ranko, who keeps bringing young women to his apartment.  Nothing wrong with that, except they never come out.  

So the two old men start spying on the young man, and things get complicated.  There is a crime involved, no doubt about that, but what makes the story so charming is the way seemingly unrelated pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to make a satisfactory whole.