Monday, January 30, 2023

Elvis Duty, by Matthew Wilson

 "Elvis Duty," by Matthew Wilson in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2023.

First of all: great title.  

This is Wilson's second appearance in this blog. It is also the second appearance by his main character, although this one takes place a decade before the first.  

Hans Burg is a police detective in Bad Kissington, West Germany, in 1959..  He is trying to solve the death of a doctor who appears to have died of a drug injection in a cheap hotel.  This problem is complicated by another duty he is assigned; helping to protect Elvis Presley, already a music sensation, who is serving his army tour in Germany.

The two cases come together in ways that are logical and sad.  A well-written story.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Grown-Ups Table, by Steve Hockensmith


"The Grown-Ups Table," by Steve Hockensmith, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2023.

This is my  first review of a story published in 2023.  That seems like a good opportunity to remind you that authors/editors/publishers are welcome to send me books or magazines for consideration, paper or electronic.  I promise to  read at least the start of every story sent and review the best I read each week.

Speaking of which, we have here the seventh appearance by my friend and fellow SluethSayer Steve Hockensmilth.   If I understand this essay correctly he is writing a novel in stories and this is the third chapter. 

All the stories relate to the closing of the Monkeyberry Toy Store in River City.  This particular tale shows us the Christmas dinner of the family that owned the store, and a classically dysfunctional family it is.

We have Uncle Dan who can't stop spouting the philosophy of his favorite right-wing radio host.  And there is Cryptique who, until we turned goth a few months ago, was named Bobby.  (He's drinking coffee because it is "the only available beverage that is black.")

But the main character is Tia who has just graduated to the Grown-Ups Table.  And she is carefully orchestrating the ditnner conversation to reveal who murdered the family matriarch, Gammy Bibi.   

For me the hardest part of writing a story is the plot - as opposed to premise, characters, dialog, etc  This is especially true in the type of story in which clues are revealed.  I admire how Tia/Hockensmith reveal the pieces of the puzzle until only one suspect is left.  Clever and satisfying.   

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, by Sean McCluskey

"Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday," by Sean McCluskey,  in Mickey Finn, Volume 3, edited by Michael Bracken, Down and Out Books, 2022.

Some stories are mostly about the telling, by which I mean a tale which might seem ordinary if presented in the usual manner takes on extra merit by being given an unusual structure.  As the title of this story implies, we have an example today.

In effect, we are going to find out how the adventure ends and then return to see what led up to it.  I am reminded of Richard Stark's novels about the thief Parker .  Stark's books  are usually told in four parts, three of which are seen from Parker's point of view.  Part Three shifts to another character, often ending with him being fatally surprised by Parker's reappearance.  Then in Part Four we find out what our protagonist had been up to.

Alon Schulman's daughter has been kidnapped by bad guys who want in on his smuggling operation.  (The way he learns of the kidnapping is one of the cleverest parts of the story.)  Schulman contacts a law firm who sends Crenshaw who they  describe as efficient and discreet.  He also turns out to be deadly as heck.

One reason this story is best told out of order is that several people turn out to have schemes of their own, and can't be trusted  But you will enjoy it and you can trust me on that.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Delivery, by Andrew Welsh-Huggins

"The Delivery," by Andrew Welsh-Huggins, in Mickey Finn, Volume 3, edited by Michael Bracken, Down and Out Books, 2022.

This is the fifth story by Welsh-Huggins to appear on this page, and the third about Mercury Carter.  Mr. Carter is a deliveryman but he doesn't work for Fed Ex.  He's the guy you call when someone else would like to get their hands on the package, and is willing to kill for it.

In that case the clients are an elderly couple and even before he reaches their house he has good reason to suspect the bad guys are waiting for him.  There's several of them and Carter is just one relatively small guy.  The kind people tend to underestimate.  

It's a good suspense story, with one flaw in my opinion: the author gives Carter a convenient ability so unlikely it leans toward super power territory.  I enjoyed it anyway.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Burying Oliver, by John M. Floyd

"Burying Oliver," by John M. Floyd, in Mickey Finn, Volume 3, edited by Michael Bracken, Down and Out Books, 2022.

 This is the third appearance here by my fellow SleuthSayer.

 When our story begins Bucky Harper is digging what seems to be a grave.  Sheriff Morton arrives and demands to know what he's doing.  Bucky says he is burying his dog Oliver.  The lawman doesn't recall any such dog and thinks Bucky might be doing something quite different, and even suggests a motive.

What follows is more or less the opposite of a twist plot. Instead things happen step by step with the inevitability of Greek tragedy.  And at the center of the tale is calm, phlegmatic, Bucky, just taking it all one shovel-load at a time.

Clever and satisfying.