Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Silent Partner, by Susan Petrone


"The Silent Partner," by Susan Petrone, in Cleveland Noir, edited by Michael Ruhlman and Miesha Wilson Headen, Akashic Press, 2023.

The publisher sent me a free copy of this book.

I have said, more than once, that Akashic's Noir Cities series would be improved by having more historical tales.  This story proves me right for it is historical in more senses than one.

It's 1970.  The narrator (if he has a name I didn't catch it) writes about baseball history for the Cleveland Press.  He has to cover the 50th anniversary of the day a Cleveland player was killed by a pitch thrown by a Yankee.

The more he investigates  the more it appears that something weird happened.  Weird, like the beanball being deliberate?  Much weirder than that.

  This terrific story reminds me of W.P. Kinsella's many magic realism tales about baseball (Field of Dreams was adapted from one of his books). And that's a compliment. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Her Upstairs, by Michael Z. Lewin


"Her Upstairs," by Michael Z. Lewin, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2023.

This is the fourth appearance in this column by Mr. Lewin.

I just checked.  I have used the word "silly" in reviews here at least fifteen times.  Last time I wrote: "A very silly story, but satisfying.  (Hey, what's that but about?  Let's say and satisfying.)"

And here we are again.

Barry and Evvie are an older couple whose happy home is disturbed by a very annoying upstairs neighbor.  They get desperate enough that they start thinking about killing the bad lady.  But first they decide to pray on it.

Well, not pray exactly.  You see, they believe in the old gods, the Greek ones, and they know that the gods communicate with humans through... cribbage?  Seriously?

There's a lot of technical cribbage stuff in here I mostly ignored but the  dialog between Olympian deities was right up my alley.  

Aphrodite, known for her reason and passion, was first to speak.  "Aw, isn't that lovely. They have a problem and they want our help."

"That's not what The Game is for," Zeus roared again...

"Blow them away!" Ares, the God of War, urged.  "Rules are rules."

Aphrodite is known for reason?  Don't think so.  But the story is a treat.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Tamsin & the Church Ladies, by Susan Daly


"Tamsin & the Church Ladies," by Susan Daly, in Malice Domestic 17: Mystery Most Traditional, edited by Verona Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly Simmons, Wildside Press, 2023.

This is the third story by Daly to make it into this blog.  It has just about everything I want in a cozy: interesting small town setting, eccentric and memorable characters, a reasonable motive, and good writing.

It's a small town in Ontario in the 1970s and the first source of conflict is an unlikely match-up.  Tamsin, our narrator, is a Women's Studies professor when the "discipline was so new the paint was still wet on the department head's door."  She marries Mike, an Anglican minister, even though that isn't her faith.

Would you be astonished that some of the congregants disapprove of her?  Me neither.  And when Tamsin finds the corpse of her husband's most vocal opponent floating in the river, things get more complicated.

 I do have one complaint with this story: the solution comes way too easily, pretty much unearned by our sleuth.  But it's a fun trip to get there.




Sunday, July 9, 2023

Martin, the Novelist, by Marcel Aymé


"Martin, the Novelist," by Marcel Aymé, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July/August 2023. 

Can I call this a 2023 story?  It seems to have been written (or set) in the 1930s, and the author died in 1967.  But I think this is it's first publication in English.

And it is a treat.

Martin is a successful novelist with one great flaw.  He kills off his characters.  Even his protagonists.  Sometimes in the middle of a book.  In one novel he killed off everybody.

His publisher can't stand it anymore and extracts a promise that no one important will die in his next book, or no money.

That's hard enough for Martin to bear but even worse is a visit from one of his characters, who is very unhappy with the plot.  Everybody's a critic, right? 

And then one of his friends comes with a special request: Could Martin put a certain real person in his book, kill her, and thereby bump her off for real?

Talk about meta.  Aymé rings more changes on the theme and they are delightful.   

Monday, July 3, 2023

Writer's Block, by Ed Ridgley


"Writer's Block," by Ed Ridgley, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2023

Each issue of AHMM features a contest called the Mysterious Photograph.   To enter you have to write a crime story of no more than 250 words based on the picture.

In the thirteen years I have been reviewing short stories I have covered perhaps a dozen pieces of flash fiction but I think this is  the first time one of these contest winners has been my pick of the week.

Here it is, Writer's Block.  This is where all the writers go when they can't think of a word to say...

So what we have here is a metaphor, a parable if you wish.  I happen to love parables (Kafta, Borges, LuGuin, all greats).

Until, at the end, the story makes a turn so sharp you could cut yourself.

And I'll stop there so as to stay shorter than Mr. Ridgley's tale.