Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Best of 2023


Over at SleuthSayers today I review the best short mysteries of the year, all selected from the ones I reviewed here.  

Sunday, January 28, 2024

The Best Justice Money Can Buy, by C.C. Finlay

"The Best Justice Money Can Buy," by C.C. Finlay, in The Reinvented Detective, edited by Cat Rambo and Jennifer Brozek, Caezik SF and Fantasy, 2023. 

Robert A. Heinlein wrote a short story called "If This Goes On---" That title sums up a subgenre of science fiction.  Here is a trend I see in present day society; what if it continues to its logical conclusion?

We already have for-profit prisons.  Some people want to replace most public institutions with private ones.  So, Finlay asks, what if the whole justice system was for-profit?

Crimes would not be investigated unless the victims, or someone else, pay for the police time.  Criminals could shell out dough to get out of prison.  (Well, today we call that hiring a good lawyer, don't we?)  And so on.

Finlay doesn't lecture us.  In the best tradition of the field he shows, not tells.  Detective Chung is not a fan of the for-profit system but today it works in her favor, because she eye-witnessed the son of the wealthiest woman in the country committing a hit and run.  And this gives her leverage, if she can figure out how to use it...


Sunday, January 21, 2024

Hitman Walked Into A Romance, by Roberta Gibson

"Hitman Walked Into A Romance," by Roberta Gibson, in SoWest: Wrong Turn, DS Publishing, 2023.

This is apparently one of those anthologies that came into being miraculously without an editor. At least none is credited.

Some stories from the criminal's point of view are 90% planning and 10% crime.  This is one of the opposite type: 10% crime and 90% getaway. It's not enough to do the nefarious deed; you have to escape afterwards.  See Jim Thompson's great novel The Getaway, for instance.

And that's Ronnie Maul's dilemma. He is, as the title promises, a professional assassin. He quickly disposes of his target, but the cops arrive before he can make his exit.  His only option for a hiding place is a bookstore.  And the only way he can stay in there is by claiming to be part of a book club discussing a romance novel.

Not surprisingly he is the only man in the group.  Not surprisingly the other members take quite an interest in the newcomer.

I guessed where this was going but I had good time getting there. Surely the most charming hitman story I have read in quite a while.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Permanent Lent, by Peter Spiegelman

 "Permanent Lent," by Peter Spiegelman, in Brutal and Strange: Stories Inspired by the Songs of Elvis Costello, edited by Jim Fusilli, Down and Out Books, 2023.

The narrator is the driver and mechanic for a wealthy couple  he refers to sardonically as His Lordship and Her Ladyship.  The (new trophy) wife is a particular pain in the posterior. The teenage kids hate her, with good reason.  The narrator hates her with even more reason.

His efforts to help the daughter only make things worse.  Can he save the situation?  

A lot of unexpected twists in this one.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Freezer Burn by April Kelly

 "Freezer Burn," by April Kelly, in Mystery Magazine, January 2024.

This is the second appearance in my reviews by April Kelly.

Kelly writes funny.  In this case she writes funny about that familiar topic, the incompetent criminal.  Two of them, in fact: Lyle and Pooter Floyd.  These brothers are desperate for money.

Now you may be asking yourself why they didn’t just get jobs, but that would be a dead giveaway you aren’t from around here. Floyds didn’t get jobs; they got married. Once upon a time, their father snagged himself a homely teacher rapidly moving past her sell-by date, walked her down the aisle, and for the next twenty-five years really tested the “for poorer” part of her vows...

Lacking the charm to convince an employable woman to join the family, the brothers have decided to make a living robbing storage units.

"Lyle and Pooter scored enough from their bi-weekly foraging to keep beer in the fridge and porn on the cable," but their ambitions are soon raised to a higher level.

Ah, hubris will come for  us all. A very funny story.

Monday, January 1, 2024

God's Way of Hiding in the Shadows, by Thomas Trang

"God's Way of Hiding in the Shadows," by Thomas Trang, in The One Percent: Tales of the Super Wealthy and Depraved, edited by Roger Nokes, Rock and a Hard Place Press, 2023.

One of the contributing authors send me a free e-copy of this book.

Bannerman is a hit man but his assignment this time is different: figure out which of several men is the biological father of his client,  Luisa Rovayo, a rising superstar in the media business.  Sounds pretty simple but as soon as he establishes the DNA connection for Daddy "the security guards tried to kill him with a wire garrotte."

Turns out Rovayo doesn't want anyone knowing about her paternity and she's willing to kill a lot of people to kill her secret.  

A nice action tale that made my best-of-the-week list because of its clever ending.