Sunday, November 26, 2023

Kit's Pad, by David Krugler

"Kit's Pad," by David Krugler, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November/December 2023.

 Kit's life went to hell two years ago and he has been homeless in Chicago ever since. One freezing day  he figures out a way to break into a mansion which is empty and for sale.  The perfect place to get a warm night's sleep!

It turns out to not be so easy.  Every night someone new shows up, searching for a hard drive the absentee owner possibly hid in the building.

What's on the drive? Who are all the people who want it?  And, most important, where the heck is it?

A fun story.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Spear Carriers, by Richard Helms

 "Spear Carriers," by Richard Helms, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November/December 2023.

As far as I can tell, this is only the second time an author has appeared in my best-of column twice in the same month.  Even more impressive (to me, at any rate), this is Helms' tenth story to make it here, which puts him in a tie for first place with Mark Thielman, Joseph S. Walker, and Terence Faherty.  

Dave and Sam have bit parts in a Broadway play, as policemen.  They only show up at the very end which leaves them with a lot of time on their hands.  One night Dave goes out for a bite and the clerk gives him his food for free. "Thank you for your service."

This happens because Dave is wearing his costume - which is to say, something that looks very much like a police uniform.


Dave reports this to Sam who is the imaginative type.  I'll bet you can think of some of the plans he comes up with.  And being brighter than Sam you can probably foresee some of the things that could go wrong.

But not all of the ones Helms dreams up. 

Clever plot and very funny writing.  

"If we're caught, we'll be fired!" I yelled.

"We're actors!" Sam yelled back.  "Getting fired is part of the deal!"

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Prisoner of Love, by James W. Ziskin

 "Prisoner of Love," by James W. Ziskin, in Get Up Offa That Thing: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of James Brown, edited by Gary Phillips, Down and Out Books, 2023.

This is the second story by Ziskin I have reviewed here. 

Dialog is character.  If fiction is told in first person, narrative is also character.  

Though I cannot claim to be a handsome man, I, Nelson Blanchard am -- as it happens -- a rich one.  Quite rich, in fact. And that state of affairs has long compensated for my lack of physical allure.

I think that piece tells you a lot more about Nelson than just his financial state and appearance.  His personality rings through, doesn't it?

Nelson has been summoned to a hotel where a wife-swapping event has been going on. While annoyed that he was left out (does his personality have something to do with it?) he is being asked to solve the murder by strangulation of one of the participants.  

Why him and not the police? Well, he is a doctor.  And if they can solve the case before the cops arrive things will be a lot less messy.

And so Nelson interrogates the suspects, and falls in love and/or lust with at least one of them.  A funny and clever story. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023

West of the Ashley, by Richard Helms


"West  of the Ashley," by Richard Helms, in Prohibition Peepers: Private Eyes During the Noble Experiment, edited by Michael Bracken, Down and Out Books 2023.

This is the ninth appearance in my column by Richard Helms. A perusal of those tales shows that he is one of my favorite current authors of private eye stories. One reason for that is that he finds unusual things for his P.I.s to do.

Take, for instance, Cletus Nobile, a World War I veteran, now doing the gumshoe gig in Charleston. His current assignment? Figure out who is selling unauthorized booze in the segregated section of town. "You can sell all you want west of the Ashley River.  Nobody cares what you do out there.  Try to sell your hooch south of the Citadel and between the rivers, you'll dance with the devil, and he always leads."

Good writing, good plot.