Monday, April 25, 2022

Murder, She Chiselled, by Marilyn Todd

 "Murder, She Chiselled," by Marilyn Todd, in Death of a Bad Neighbour: Revenge is Criminal, edited by Jack Calverley, Logic of Dreams, 2022.

 I have a story in this book.

 This is the second appearance here by Marilyn Todd. And this is a very silly story.  Not that that is a bad thing.

"Was I the luckiest girl in the Jurassic, or what!"

So says Dinah Sewer, cave woman, who is married to the famous singer-songwriter-hunter Spruce Stonesteen.  When Spruce is leaving for work he asks his wife whether she wants bison or antelope for dinner.

"'Bison," I said.  I'm not into fast food."

The puns only get worse, if you don't like puns.  And eventually a rival singer named Jagga gets killed...

I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Last of Their Line, by Robin Hazard Ray

 "The Last of Their Line," by Robin Hazard Ray, in Mystery Magazine, April, 2022.

A nice historical story.  

It's Boston, 1857.  Sumner Bascomb is the superintendent of Mount Auburn Cemetery and he receives a letter from Thomas Damon, wishing to purchase a lot big enough to accommodate 24 bodies.  He has decided to move all the remains of his family from the Trinity Church Burying Ground.

If that doesn't sound complicated enough, it turns out that Damon is not actually in charge of his family's estate.  That privilege belongs to his sister, who lives in the same house as him, but they haven't spoke in twenty years.

A lot of family secrets here, with interesting motives...

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Amnesty Box, by Tim McLoughlin


"Amnesty Box," by Tim McLoughlin, in Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Akashic Press, 2022.

This is a collection of stories and essays.  If I am reading the acknowledgements correctly, this story is one of three new ones.

It is sometimes poor form for a reviewer to reveal that a story has an unreliable narrator.  But since McLoughlin's character  begins by saying "Appearance is everything and I'm a fraud" I don't think I'm giving away any secrets.

The protagonist is a postal service police officer in New York City.  One reason he describes himself as a fraud is that he can accurately say he has been shot twice, in combat and on the job, but this ignores the fact that they were both minor injuries caused by friendly fire.  Not as heroic as it sounds.

But the main thread of the story is a stunt he creates to speed up the occasional metal detector check which they run on post office customers, always on Friday because that is the lightest work day.  You see, nobody want to spend the beginning of their weekend processing a bust.

Arrests go down on weekends, they go down in nice weather, they go down when they are inconvenient. Conversely, they spike shortly after Halloween and remain high through Thanksgiving, when overtime checks will arrive in time for Christmas shopping.

The cop invents the Amnesty Box, explaining that customers can drop into this cardboard box anything they know they shouldn't be taking through the metal detector.  The catch is they won't get the dumped items back.  "Even on a slow day we would collect a couple small bags of weed and a few knives."

A harmless-enough trick until something much more dangerous is dumped in the box.  Then the story takes several surprising turns...

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The Book of Eve (The First Mystery), by Steve Hockensmith

 "The Book of Eve (The First Mystery)," by Steve Hockensmith, Death of a Bad Neighbour: Revenge is Criminal, edited by Jack Calverley, Logic of Dreams, 2022.

I have a story in this book.

This is the sixth appearance in this column by my friend and fellow SleuthSayer Steve Hockensmith.

As the title suggests, this is a retelling of the first murder mystery.  Abel has gone missing and his mother Eve is looking for him.  

Much of the pleasure in this story is in the way it's told, the language of the characters.  And not all of them are human.  For example, here is a sheep complaining of the absence of Abel, the shepherd.

"It's a bummer, too.  We've had lions come by, hyenas, wild dogs.  There's an eagle that's gotten, like six lambs.  It's a wonder the jerk can still fly."

The ewe bent her head and tore out another mouthful of grass.

"I can hardly believe I'm still alive," she muttered.

"Why didn't you come down out of the hills?" Eve asked her.  "Get me and Adam? Or Cain?"

The eye lifted her head again.  But it wasn't to look at Eve and the serpent.  It was to glance around at the other sheep languidly gazing nearby.

"What?" she said.  "And leave the flock?"

A very funny story that manages to be surprisingly moving as well.