Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Underneath, by Stephen Ross

 "The Underneath," by Stephen Ross, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2021.

 This is the second appearance by my fellow Sleuthsayer, Stephen Ross.  It's a quicky, but clever. 

William is a seventy-two-year-old retired zookeeper, a bachelor (or widower, depending on which page you believe...oops).    One of his few pleasures in life is riding the bus to town on Friday mornings with his neighbor, the charming young Julie. 

But one Thursday night William hears her arguing with her husband, Doug.  The next day: no Julie on the bus.  Hmm...

The suspicious neighbor is a set-up we have read many times but, as usual, what matters is what you do with the set-up.  I won't give anything away but in just a few pages William conducts his investigation and makes a very clever plan.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Monday, January 18, 2021

Just A Little Before Winter's Set In, by Larry Tyler

"Just A Little Before Winter's Set In," by Larry Tyler, in Masthead: Best New England Crime Stories, edited by Verena Rose, Harriette Sackler, and Shawn Reilly Simmons, Level Best Books, 2020.

Let's start with a little whining, shall we?  First, as I say every time I recommend a story from this series, to call an anthology the "best" implies that its contents are selected from already published stories, which these are not.  Second, should there really be an apostrophe-S in that title?  I don't see it myself.

Okay, moving on.

In most stories you want the structure to be transparent.  By this I mean that the reader shouldn't be aware of how the tale is organized; it should flow as much like reality as possible.  But some stories are translucent: the structure filters the events.  Think of William Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily," in which the narrator is we, the whole community.  Tell the tale differently and it would be a very different story. It's not that one way is better than the other; just a different choice.

This story is translucent.

The narrator is essentially a hermit (although that word never appears), living alone in the Maine woods.  After describing his life he switches to third person, describing an encounter  a hermit (hmm...) named Teddy Seay  has with Elliot Kayman, a wealthy banker.

Kayman is fleeing (or flying) from the law, hoping to get to Canada as the first step in his escape to no-extradition land.  Alas, his plane crashes and no one is around to help him but the greedy Teddy Seay who won't help him without being paid and paid often.

One suspects where this story is going but you will definitely want to find out for sure.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Cahoots, by C.C. Guthrie

"Cahoots," by C.C. Guthrie, in Cozy Villages of Death, edited by Lyn Worthen, Camden Park Press, 2020.

Alan Peterson is a banker, and son of the wealthiest man in a small East Texas town.  The story opens with him running into Beulah's diner in a panic because his beautiful wife TeriLyn has disappeared.  

Scary stuff but things don't seem to add up.  She's only been gone a few hours.  And isn't Alan supposed to be out of town?  And why is he claiming she has been having mental problems?

Very suspicious.  Beulah tells us the details of the search that goes on for weeks, and the reaction of the town's residents.  My favorite are the two gossips known  as the mover and the shaker.

A well-structured story with a very satisfactory climax.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Camberwell Crackers, by Anthony Horowitz

  "Camberwell Crackers," by Anthony Horowitz, in California Schemin', edited by Art Taylor, Wildside Press, 2020.

This is a very silly story.  That's certainly not a demerit as far as I'm concerned.  More problematic for some readers might be that the subject is Christmas crackers, a British holiday custom which, like pantomimes, has never really caught on on this side of the pond (south of the Great Lakes at least).

Camberwell Crackers is a long-established family company that manufactures these novelties.  It seems a very cheerful place to work.  But a man named Osborne was planning to take over the company, and now he has been murdered.  The inexperienced Detective Inspector is hoping to make his reputation by solving the crime, but he can't seem to make sense of the clues.  And, oh, there are clues...

I think I'll stop there.