Sunday, April 25, 2021

Return to Sender, by Gar Anthony Haywood

 "Return to Sender," by Gar Anthony Haywood, in Jukes and Tonks, edited by Michael Bracken and Gary Phillips, Down & Out Books, 2021.

Somebody stole Binny's favorite possession right out of his bar: "his late father's jukebox, the one that had been sitting near the door off the parking lot, next to the candy machine, since the fall of 1961."  

Binny suspects that his ex-wife Peoria (what a great name) is behind the theft.  He's right. But how can he prove it, much less get his beloved box back?

A tall order.  But luckily the clowns who did the  theft damaged the machine and needed to find a repairman, and that lead to...

A convoluted but enjoyable story.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Yeah, I Meant To Do That, by Mat Coward

"Yeah, I Meant To Do That," by Mat Coward, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2021.

This is the sixth appearance in my column by Mat Coward, who writes very funny stories.  Here is how this one begins:

"At some point you're going to have to grab everything and run.  And the chances are, when that happens, you'll be wearing duck feet and a blindfold and trying to carry twenty thousand pounds in coins in a wet paper sack."

How's that for an arresting image?  These words of wisdom are spoken by Barber, an aging con man trying to educate a group of proteges.  They want his help in scamming a bad guy named Spencer who has gotten rich on ripping off people in trouble.

Barber has a cunning plan, if he can trust his new friends to carry it out correctly.  Ah, but can con men ever trust each other?  This one is a treat.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Ghost of a Ghost, by Martin Hill Ortiz

 "Ghost of a Ghost," by Martin Hill Ortiz, in Mystery Weekly Magazine, April 2021.

This is, I think, at least the fourth story in this series.  One of them made my best of the week page before.

Phillip Prince is a private eye (well, those of us who have read the other tales know it's more complicated than that, but let's skip the backstory).  He lives in a cabin in northern California and occasionally gets unwelcome visitors, like Sherm, who just tried to punch him and got shot for his troubles.

Some careers don't jibe well with mediocrity. Being a thug-for-hire doesn't come with a health plan, which is what Sherm needed now.

On the way to the emergency room Sherm explains that he was hired to kill him by Lancer.  Which rather confuses things because: "There were two reasons why Ted Lancer wouldn't kill me: number one, he had hired me to keep him alive; and number two, I failed  While my failure gave him a motive, death makes for a fine alibi."

A nicely convoluted tale.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Who Stole The Afikomen?, by Elizabeth Zelvin

 "Who Stole The Afikomen?," by Elizabeth Zelvin, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2021.

I won't even pretend to be objective about this story by my fellow SleuthSayer.   Let me explain why.

The narrator, Andy, is a Catholic and he is about to meet his new fiancee's extended family at their Passover dinner - his first experience at a seder.

I was raised Catholic and have attended many seders with my wife's family and now at our own house.  So I know just where Andy is coming from.

The story is hilarious.      

Uncle Manny kept saying, "Focus, people, focus.  We've got a goal here."
"To get the Jews out of Egypt?" I whispered.
"To get past the rabbis to the gefilte fish," Sharon whispered back.
"Is that the Promised Land?"
"The pot roast is the Promised Land."

But this is EQMM so naturally there has to be a crime.  The afikomen goes missing, and with it a valuable diamond. And since Andy is a cop if he can't find it he's a putz.  But if he accuses a member of the family of theft - oy gevalt!