Saturday, February 27, 2021

Katerina Goes to Studio City, by Thomas Perry

 "Katerina Goes to Studio City," by Thomas Perry, in The Strand Magazine, LXII, 2020

This story puts me in an awkward position.  I always publish my best-of-the-year list in my final SleuthSayers column of January, to give me a few extra weeks to catch those last stories.  But this issue of The Strand didn't arrive until late February.  I will have to go back and add this tale to my list.  Ah well.

Katerina is a teenager leading a miserable life in Moscow with no hint of a better future.  Then her best friend escapes to the United States and Katerina, a very resourceful girl, arranges to go as well.

Naive as she is, she does not realize why a Russian oligarch ("He's like a king,") would be willing to help a beautiful young girl come to California.  He sends a different man  to her apartment every night and Katerina develops a wide assortment of tricks and games to keep them out of her bed.

Does this begin to sound familiar?  Are you perhaps humming a few bars of Scheherazade?  

Before this very clever story ends Katerina will ring in a different and also very old tale.

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Tennis Church, by Sophie Hannah


"The Tennis Church," by Sophie Hannah, in The C Word, Spellbound Books, 2021.

The proceeds from this book go to support Britain's National Health Service.  The title refers to COVID, but few of the stories make any reference to that plague.  Always weird to come across an anthology with no editor.

"I haven't disappeared," said the voice on the other end of the line.  No hello, no introduction, nothing.

Nice starting point.  The person receiving the call is Charlie Zailer, She's a cop.  And the caller, she realizes is Tasha, an old friend she hasn't heard from in years.  What was this strange conversation about?

Charlie has her own problems, mostly in-laws who have a very different worldview than she and her husband.  And oddly enough, that is not unrelated to the trouble with Tasha who, on Christmas day, does seem to have disappeared. 

A clever story with a satisfactory ending.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Boo Radley College Prep, by Karen Harrington


"Boo Radley College Prep," by Karen Harrington, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2021.

As I have said before, sometimes I read the first page of a story and find myself silently telling the author: You got something good here.  Don't screw it up.  Harrington, it turns out,  is not a screw-up.

Which is more than we can say about Tony Reyes.  He is fifteen years old, short on luck and, he will tell you, short on brains.  A hurricane has forced him and his mother to move in with the brother of his deceased father, and it isn't a happy or healthy home.

Right down the block, however, is what his uncle calls "the Boo Radley house," a spooky looking joint whose owner never seems to appear in public.  Curiosity - and the hopes of earning chore money - causes Tony to visit.

And there he meets a grouchy old man with a lot of brains and a good reason to hide from the public.

Two desperate souls in situations that are only getting worse.  Can they help each other somehow?

Hell of a story.



Sunday, February 7, 2021

Flinders' Flit, by H.L. Fullerton

"Flinders' Flit," by H.L. Fullerton, in Mystery Weekly Magazine, February 2021.

The defining experience of Cassie's life was her father abandoning the family when she was eight years old. So when her husband disappears one day leaving behind "drawers upended, hall closet ransacked, its door drooping off its track, books and belongings scattered to the four winds..." it doesn't occur to her that he might not have left of his own accord.  

The police find that suspicious, to say the least.  

Your husband was gone, your house was a disaster and you didn't call the police?

I figured he left in a hurry.

There is a mystery here and Cassie works out in a satisfactory manner.

Monday, February 1, 2021

A Family Matter, by Barb Goffman,

"A Family Matter," by Barb Goffman, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, January/February 2021. 

I corrected a bad typo in my original entry.  My apologies.

This is the third appearance here by my fellow SleuthSayer Barb Goffman.

I have said before that I like stories in which a character has a chance at redemption, whether they wind up taking it or not.  Here is an example.

It's 1962 and Doris lives in a very nice suburb called The Glen.  Most of her friends are married to men who work for the big pharmaceutical company in town.  The place has standards.  

And the new neighbors, Ginny and Bill do not meet them.  They raise chickens.  They hang up their laundry in the yard.  Doris is determined that these offensive violations of the norms will not stand.

But when she realizes another very different norm is being broken she has to determine what really matters in her neighborhood.  And that may offer a bit of redemption.

A classy story.