Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Career Spent Disappointing People, by Tod Goldberg

"A Career Spent Disappointing People," by Tod Goldberg, in Palm Springs Noir, edited by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Akashic Press, 2021.

The publisher sent me a free copy of this book.  

This is the second appearance here by Mr. Goldberg.

Shane leads an interesting life.  He makes part of his living singing karaoke.  He makes the rest of it robbing houses with his Gold Mike, using information gathered from the people who listened to him singing karaoke.

But that's in the past because when our story begins Shane has a bullet hole in his foot and several large chunks of Gold Mike in the trunk of his car.  These two facts are not unrelated.

When that car breaks down in a small desert town Shane finds himself in a bar having a conversation with an attorney and a clown. The attorney wants to give him advice, possibly have him as a client, and has another use for him in mind.  The clown, well, it takes a while to figure out what the clown wants.

A bizarre story of desperate people.  What made this the best-of-the-week for me was the ending, which I wouldn't characterize as a twist, but definitely a surprise.    

Monday, July 19, 2021

Sonny's Encore, by Michael Bracken

"Sonny's Encore," by Michael Bracken, in Black Cat Mystery Magazine, #9.

This is the ninth appearance in this column by my friend and fellow SleuthSayer Michael Bracken, which puts him in the lead, if this is a race, which of course it isn't.  This here is art.

The depression was hard on everyone, even big bands traveling through the south.  Sonny Goodman and his troupe of musicians have found a way to supplement their income with a little larceny.    But when things go wrong they go wrong in a big way.  That could be the end of the story, but Bracken has some surprises in store.

The fun of this story is the details of the well-thought-out capers.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Candidate, by Tom Ziegler


"The Candidate," by Tom Ziegler, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July, August 2021.

It is unusual for me to select three stories from the same publication in a row.  It's not like I'm not reading others at the same time...

Frank is a bagman, collecting money all over the midwest for a crime organization in Chicago.  The old mob is changing with the times and wants Frank to take on a more varied role and he isn't sure if he wants to. But how easy is it to quit the mob?

Things come to a head when a famous (or infamous) character dies of natural but embarrassing causes in a brothel with mob collections.   Somehow erasing the connection turns out to be Frank's job.

What follows is a methodical operation with a few surprising twists. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Sweet Life, by Eve Fisher


"The Sweet Life," by Eve Fisher, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2021.

This is the third appearance here by my fellow SleuthSayer Eve Fisher.

As I have said before, some stories sneak up on you.  I'm not talking about surprise endings.  I'm talking about a story that you finish and think, "Well, that was okay," but then the next day you realize you're still thinking about it.  Maybe you reread it to catch more of the details.  As Paul Hanson said "I may be done with the book, but it’s not done with me.” 

This is one of those stories, for me anyway.

Carrie is a teenager who has had a rotten life.  She considers her time with Ethan to have been pretty good because, while he made her sell drugs, he didn't force her into prostitution.  That's a highlight.

When that arrangement collapses she lucks into a gig with an agency that cleans houses.  (She has to lie about her age, and other things.)  Turns out that's work she is happy with, even though some of the customers are a little weird.

But then Molly comes back into her life, and Molly is bad news.  Just the kind of person to steal something from a house they are cleaning and ruin it for everyone.  

What happens is more complicated than that, and more interesting.  Not a twist ending, but I definitely did not predict how the story turned out.