Showing posts with label 2010. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2010. Show all posts

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Just Like In The Movies, by Kate Thornton

"Just Like In The Movies," by Kate Thornton, in Inhuman Condition, Denouement Press, 2010.

The author gave me this book two years ago and I have been shamefully slow about getting around to reading it. 

Are you familiar with cryptic crosswords?  These are popular in England; never caught on much here.  Each clue is a puzzle in itself.  Wikipedia gives the example of: Very sad unfinished story about rising smoke (8) which is a clue for the word "Tragical."  Go to the article if you want to see how that works.  It baffles me.

Which has nothing to do with Thornton's story, but have faith.  We will get there.

Years ago I read about one of the famous setters (i.e. creators) of cryptic crosswords who created a puzzle in which the first clue could lead to two possible answers, one correct and one almost correct.  Whichever of those you chose you could answer all the clues successfully - until the very last one.  If you started down the wrong path, you wound up with one one final clue you could not answer.

And that almost  brings us to Thornton's story.  The narrator is a teenage girl who compares herself to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.  She has been watching a lot of movies because she can't leave the house.  Not because of a broken leg like Jimmy, but because of a monitoring device on her ankle.  Seems she brought a knife to school for protection, and they accused her of some other stuff she denies.

When she's not watching the TV she watches her neighbors the Blatniks, who fight a lot, often about the wife's brother, Norm.  Mr. Blatnik clearly doesn't want his brother-in-law around, for some reason.  Like maybe he's done something worse than bring a knife to school.  And now Norm is interested in our narrator...

At one point in the story there is a sentence that can be read two ways, just like that first cryptic crossword clue, and if you interpret it the wrong way (trust me, you will), Thornton will lead you merrily in the wrong direction.  And that's a very enjoyable trip.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

House Rules, by Libby Fischer Hellmann

"House Rules," by Libby Fischer Hellmann, in A Woman's Touch, Sniplets Publishing.  2010.

I've been reading the e-anthology,  A Woman's Touch. So far this is my favorite.  Marge and Larry Farley take a vacation in Las Vegas, but Larry isn't much impressed.  First, he loses a bundle in a casino, then he finds the great outdoors "too hot.  And dusty.  Let's go back."   His view changes when  he finds a mysterious box in the sand. When he brings it back to the hotel all hell breaks loose.  Turns out somebody ditched the box in the desert for a reason. Turns out a whole lot of people want it back.  No one is who they seem and Marge, who is a self-help book kind of person, may or may not be able to rescue Larry from the mess he has gotten them into.

A fun read.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Calling the Shots

"Calling the Shots" by Karen Dionne. in First Thrills, edited by Steve Berry. Forge, 2010.

WARNING: Spoiler alert.

Jason just broke up with his pregnant girlfriend. Now he's in the forest, cutting firewood alone, which he knows is a foolish and dangerous thing to do...

Let's talk a little bit about context. In an ideal world we would come to each short story fresh, and see it as the unique work of literature it is. But on our less-than-perfect planet we sometimes notice the frame around the artwork.

Most of the stories in First Thrills would fit just fine into a magazine of mystery stories. But this particular tale is much better off in a collection of thrillers.

Why? Because in a mystery magazine you would know that before the story is over there will have to be a crime, or the threat of a crime, or the memory of a crime. Otherwise it wouldn't be in the magazine, right? But in this book the story is justified by its thrilling content before anything criminal appears. So the surprise works better here than it would in the other context.

Having said all that this is a terrific tale, with the coldest ending line I have read since the last novel by Richard Stark. If I had read it in 2010 it would be on my best of the year list. Karen Dionne apparently specializes in ecothrillers, and she seems to know her woods and her woodsmen very well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dead Club

"The Dead Club" by MIchael Palmer and Daniel James Palmer, in First Thrills, edited by Steve Berry. Forge. 2010.

I have temporarily run short of 2011 stories to read (if you have had one published this year and you want me to read it with the possibility of reviewing it, contact me at lopresti AT Published stories only, please). So I have been reading First Thrills, published last year by the International Thriller Writers.

This brings up the question: what's a thriller? Unfortunately the only definition the book provides is this from David Morrell "If a story doesn't thrill, it's not a thriller." Yeah, and if a statement is not tautological, it's not a tautology.

So, here's my effort: a thriller is an action-oriented suspense story. (And before you ask: a mystery is focused on a crime in the past; suspense focuses on crime yet to come.)

Enough definitionizing. Let's get to the story at hand.

Dr. Robert Tomlinson is a distinguished General Practioner. Bobby Tomlinson is an obsessive gambler. They happen to be the same person, and that leads to trouble when there is a medical conference in Las Vegas.

Bobby plays hooky from the conference to hit the casinos, where he meets a fellow-minded doctor named Grove who tells him about the Dead Club. Using the Internet doctors from around the world read the medical histories of terminally ill patients and bet on how long they will live. It's not illegal, Grove assures him, because all identifying information has been removed. What could go wrong?

This is a very twisty tale. I made several guesses as to where it was going, but the authors, Palmer and Palmer, managed to stay several curves ahead of me.

By the way, "The Thief" by Gregg Hurwitz in the same book, came a damned close second. If I had read these stories in 2010 they would have both made my Best of the Year list.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Review: The Awareness

"The Awareness" by Terrie Farley Moran. in Crimes By Midnight: Mysteries from the Dark Side. Edited by Charlaine Harris. 2010.

When I started this blog I invited you readers to send me reviews of favorite stories. I now have my first bite. Leigh Lundin is an author of excellent short stories and my brother blogger at Criminal Brief. By coincidence he sent me a review on the same subject I chose this week: a story from a book on occult crime. Different story, different book, as it happens. What a coicncidence! Ooh, spooky!

"The Awareness" by Terri Farley Moran.
Reviewed by by Leigh Lundin

I received a surprise gift, Crimes by Moonlight, the latest MWA anthology edited by Charlaine Harris. This volume is unusual in that each story combines traditional mystery with the paranormal.

I flipped through its contents looking for authors I might know. The first name that leaped out at me was Terrie Farley Moran.

That's right, my tease-mate over at Women of Mystery, plunked in the middle of the book. I turned there first.
Another surprise: Terrie isn't so much an author as an artist. She doesn't write– she paints with words. She sketches and shades and sometimes sculpts. Characters emerge in bas-relief. Single sentences become miniature portraits and landscapes.

Terrie's story, "The Awareness", is unusual in another regard. Rather than recycle vampires and werewolves, she cast a banshee as her heroine. The female fairies of the hills, the keening bean-sĂ­dhe, sing at the death of those of their clan. Terrie's immortal, living in New York City, realizes the object of her lament was murdered. She sets about to solve– and avenge– the murder.

"The Awareness" is a satisfying story, not the least because of Terrie's artistry and attention to mythological detail. Terrie's selection is all the more impressive because she was up against 240 or so tough competitors.

This is where I need to make full disclosure: I not only submitted a story to the anthology, but I critiqued four others that were so good, I was surprised they didn't make it. The selection committee made difficult decisions and I didn't envy them.

I next took up Mark Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane's story, "Grave Matters", an unusual Mike Hammer Frankensteinisch horror story. Following on my list is Toni Kelner's "Taking the Long View", after which I'll read the stories from the beginning.

Crimes by Moonlight is a hit and I can assure fretting readers of traditional mysteries (like me) that Crimes by Moonlight does not fall back on deus ex machina. Realism and ratiocination trump the psychic aspects.
Get the book: The first three stories I devoured are all winners. Like me, you'll enjoy Terrie Farley Moran's 'The Awareness'.

You Heard It Here First!

Friday, January 7, 2011

LIttle Big News: Year in review

If you are curious about the best stories of 2010 I have helpfully provided a complete list. Well, a list of my favorites anyway. The list is at Criminal Brief.