Showing posts with label 2015. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2015. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hotel Hate, by Michael Chandos

"Hotel Hate," by Michael Chandos, in Black Coffee, edited by Andrew MacRae, Darkhouse Books.

This story is set in the world of prohibition in one of the fancy backwoods hotels where gangsters could relax until the heat cooled down.  Our narrator is the owner of Hotel Hatteras in Michigan, called Hotel Hate by her rotten husband who deserted her years ago.  Now he's back and trouble follows...

A nice tale with plenty of period touches.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Miracle on Christmas Eve, by Szu-Yen Lin

"The Miracle on Christmas Eve," by Szu-Yen Lin, in Alfred HItchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2016.

I am not a big fan of locked room stories.  I think I only have only reviewed one here before.  But I liked this one a lot.

Szu-Yen Lin is Taiwanese and his hero Ruoping Lin is as well.  Unfortunately neither the editor's  introduction nor the story itself tell us anything about him except that he will be moderating a panel at a book fair and that he is not surprised when a stranger knocks on the door of his office with a problem.

Oh, I should add that for that panel he is  reading a mystery novel by an author "who specializes in mysteries without crimes," and that of course is called foreshadowing.

Getting back to the knock on the door, the knocker is a grown man named Ko who wants Ruoping to tell him whether Santa Claus really exists.

It's not quite as crazy as it sounds.  When Ko was young his father, a widower, made sure a present from Santa was waiting for him every Christmas morning.  When his schoolmates scorned his belief the father invited them all over on Christmas Eve to be convinced.

And proceeds to reveal a dozen presents inside a locked room, sealed with tape on door and window, after he and the boys slept on the floor outside all night.

The work of Santa or a clever and dedicated parent?  I am sure you can guess but the solution is quite satisfactory.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Little Big News: Derringer finalists

The Short Mystery Fiction Society has announced the finalists for the 2016 Derringer Awards.  I am more than delighted that one of the stories is by yours truly.  Congratulations to all!

For Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 words)
  • Jack Bates, "The Hard Screw" (Near to the Knuckle, August 6, 2015)
  • Craig Faustus Buck, "Heavy Debt" (Mondays are Murder: Akashic Books, August 10, 2015)
  • Barb Goffman, "The Wrong Girl" (Flash and Bang: A Short Mystery Fiction Society Anthology: Untreed Reads, October 2015)
  • Vy Kava, "Hero" (Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Level Best Books, November 2015)
  • John Weagly, "Trash Pick-Up" (Near to the Knuckle, September 24, 2015)

For Best Short Story (1,001–4,000 words)
  • Shelly Dickson Carr, "Words Can Kill" (Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Level Best Books, November 2015)
  • Nikki Dolson, "Joe Park's Little Girl" (Mystery Weekly, September 7, 2015)
  • Chris Knopf, "Kill Switch" (Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Level Best Books, November 2015)
  • William Burton McCormick, "Pompo's Disguise" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2015)
  • Meg Opperman, "Twilight Ladies" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2015)

For Best Long Story (4,001–8,000 words)
  • Ron Collins, "The White Game" (Fiction River: Hidden in Crime: WMG Publishing, November 2015)
  • John M. Floyd, "Dentonville" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 2015)
  • Katia Lief, "The Orchid Grower" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 2015)
  • Robert Lopresti, "Shooting at Firemen" (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2015)
  • Elizabeth Zelvin, "The Man in the Dick Tracy Hat" (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, June 2015)

For Best Novelette (8,001–20,000 words)
  • John M. Floyd, "Driver" (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2015)
  • Jane Haddam, "Crazy Cat Ladies" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2015)
  • Richard Helms, "Shooting Stars" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September/October 2015)
  • Gordon Hopkins, "Jack Daniels and Associates: The Whiplash Brokers" (Kindle Worlds, March 2015)
  • Travis Richardson, "Quack and Dwight" (Jewish Noir: Contemporary Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds: PM Press, November 2015)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Little Big News: Edgar nominations!

The Mystery Writers of America have just announced the nominees for the Edgar Awards.  Congratulations to all the funalists.  Here are the short story choices:


"The Little Men" – Mysterious Bookshop by Megan Abbott (Mysterious Bookshop)
"On Borrowed Time" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Mat Coward (Dell Magazines)
"The Saturday Night Before Easter Sunday” – Providence Noir by Peter Farrelly (Akashic Books)
"Family Treasures" – Let Me Tell You  by Shirley Jackson (Random House)
"Obits" – Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
“Every Seven Years” – Mysterious Bookshop by Denise Mina (Mysterious Bookshop)




ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD (Best First Story)

"Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by Russell W. Johnson (Dell Magazines)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

'Twas The Night Before, by Todd Robinson

"'Twas The Night Before," by Todd Robinson, in Thuglit presents: CRUEL YULE, 2015.

The best story in this collection of holiday tales from Thuglit Magazine was penned by the editor himself, alias Big Daddy Thug.

Boo and Junior are lifelong buddies, stuck holding down the fort in an empty Boston bar on Christmas Eve.  They are both orphans, no one to get festive with.  Noel makes  Boo  miserable and Junior happy, which makes Boo feel even worse.  (Oh, and one thing to get straight: Boo calls Junior his "heterosexual life partner," but they are both male (unless I am reading the story wrong).  So either Robinson or Boo really means platonic life partners.)

Back to the story.  Into the joint wanders a semi-regular customer name Darla and a man she has apparently just met at another bar where she works.

Boo says: "I didn't like him immediately.  He had that cocky Ivy League swagger, chin held at an arrogant angle.  His overcoat looked extremely soft and extremely expensive.  But maybe I was just feeling jealous of somebody with a beautiful woman on his arm on the worst night of my year...."

Turns out Boo's instincts are on target.  Caleb, for such is the jerk's name, attempts to give Darla a date rape drug.  Our heroes spot the scheme and things get complicated.  And messy.  And funny.

"So...do you guys have a  plan?"
"For what?" Junior asked.
"To get him back into his room past the front desk."
 "Improvise?" I said.
"That sounded like a question," Darla said.
I thought for a second.  "Yes.  Yes it did."
From the floor of the backseat erupted a terrified, "FLUMMWRAAAA!"

And happy holidays to all you thugs out there..

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Bastard, by Tarek Abi Samra

"The Bastard," by Tarek Abi Samra, in Beirut Noir, edited by Iman Humaydan, Akashic Press, 2015.

They were born on the same night, of the same father but different mothers.

A nice opening sentence, that, with a lovely fairy tale feel.  Samra keeps this up in his story, set in contemporary times, partly by leaving all the characters nameless.  And then there is the plot, which has a timeless feel.

You see, the half-brothers were born in the same hospital, and there was some confusion, so no one is sure which brother is which.  The father makes an arbitrary choice,  setting their destinies forever in place.

The two boys grow up next door to each other.  The so-called bastard envies his brother his legitimacy and wealth.  The heir envies the other one his freedom, a loving mother (his own died in childbirth), and his strength and confidence.

Clearly their fates are tangled up and the story tells us the stories of their lives, with an appropriately noirish ending.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Neck and Neck, by Andrea Camilleri

"Neck and Neck," by Andrea Camilleri, in The Strand Magazine," October 2015-January 2016.

Montalbano,  Camilleri's series character, is appointed Chief Inspector in a village in Sicily, and discovers that a Mafia family feud is well under way.  A member of the Cuffaros is snuffed out with an old-fashioned shotgun, and then one of the Sinagras dies the same way.

Our hero digs deeper as the bodies pile up but no one is talking.  "No wonder Ulysses, right here in Sicily, told the Cyclops his name was Nobody!"

But then something highly irregular happens.  Two members of the same family are killed in a row.  How unseemly!  And Montalbano spots a way into the maze.

Very clever story.  And the fact that one of the characters is named Lopresti did not influence me, I assure you.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Good Neighbors, by Gary Earl Ross

"Good Neighbors," by Gary Earl Ross, in Buffalo Noir, edited by Ed Park and Brigid Hughes, Akashic Press, 2015.

By the time the Washingtons moved into the house two doors away late last summer, Loukas and Athena Demopoulos had lived next to Helen Schildkraut for nearly five years.

Dang, that is a good opening sentence.  Clear, a bit complex, and instantly predicting the conflict that is to come.

Lou and Athena have retired after running their Greek restaurant for decades.  Lou's hobby is antiques.  He doesn't collect them, he just wants to buy low and sell high.  But then he discovers that his elderly neighbor Helen has a house full of them.  And Helen has no relatives, no favorite charities, no one to leave her precious belongings to. So Lou and Athena set out to become really good neighbors and wait for Helen to pass away.

But then the Washingtons -- remember them?  They appear in that crucial first sentence and then disappear for most of the story -- move in on the other side, and they are good neighbors too.

This is one of those rare stories I reread as soon as I finished it, because there was so much in it I wanted to see what I had missed.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Bubble Man of Allentown, by Dimitri Anastasopoulos

"The Bubble Man of Allentown," by Dimitri Anastasopoulos, in Buffalo Noir, edited by Ed Park and Brigid Hughes, Akashic Press, 2015.

I'm not a big fan of experimental or even mainstream literary fiction (sometimes defined as "stories with the last page missing.")  So this story had to be extra good to top my weekly list.

I'm going to tell you about some of the characters and you are going to think it's a funny story.  It isn't.  The key word is actually creepy.  Not horror, but it will get under your skin.

Okay, characters.  Tippett is a sixty-year-old cop, on suspension because of his fascination with contaminating crime scenes with chalk outlines.  He considers it a form of artistic expression.  And then there's the Bubble Man, who sits in his fourth floor apartment all day blowing large bubbles down into the street below.  And a middle-aged woman named Lora Gastineau who left her house in a slip and sneakers and never returned.

Tippett is called back to work when a fresh corpse is found and he rushes to prove himself and then -- well, weird things happen.

The artist had tinkered with the body's appearance after the person had died, Tippett guessed -- a new-age sketch artist, judging by the aura of the total work on the ground.  it betrayed the artist's faith in symmetry and harmony, in the reconstruction of the whole figure.  Techniques popularized in the early 1980s, Tippett thought...

A wild ride.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Something I Said, by Bracken MacLeod.

"Something I Said," by Bracken MacLeod, in Protectors 2: Heroes, edited by Thomas Pluck,  Goombah Gumbo Press, 2015.

I can't say much about this story without giving away the store.  So let me point out that the book is a fundraiser for PROTECT, "a non-partisan anti-crime pro-child lobby."  There are worse causes. 

The narrator of the story, Abel, is a bartender and he's back in the tavern on a night off.  He deliberately picks a fight with a regular customer, a guy named Scott.  Scott is what they call a "pick-up artist," who brags on the web about his irresistable techniques for seducing women.

Why does Abel want to get into a fight with this steroid-laden jerk?  What's his game plan? 

That's where I have to stop talking. Except to say that, while the story is serious, there's a line about martial arts that made me laugh out loud.  And the last paragraph is stunning.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Down Home, by Toni Goodyear

"Down Home," by Toni Goodyear, in Murder Under The Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015, edited by Art Taylor, Down and Out Books, 2015.   

I have a story in this anthology.  This photo, taken by Gigi Pandian and used with permission, shows me sitting with Toni Goodyear at the mass signing for the book at the Bouchercon.  We happen to be next to each other in the book, and therefore sat together on the assembly line.

Last week I wrote about a tale in it that I described as sweet and twisted.  You might say we're back in that territory again.

Greta is an eighty-year-old widow with a problem: Andy Griffith keeps trying to arrest her.

That's right, the dead actor.  He's dressed as Sheriff Andy Taylor from the old sit-com, but Greta realizes that that was only a character he was playing.  Heck, she's not crazy.

So naturally she had to set her sofa on fire to escape him.  Wouldn't you have?


The doctor says she is suffering "transient paranoid disturbances," but she is more bothered by what she calls "occasional invisibility,"  as cops, doctors, and relatives find it convenient to talk over and  around her.

Okay, Greta clearly has  a clinker in her thinker, but this is a crime story.  What crime could involve a sweet old lady who empties into her .22 Ruger into the wall of the laundry room, gunning for the sheriff of Mayberry?

A wild and satisfying ride.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

#grenadegranny, by Karen Pullen

"#grenadegranny," by Karen Pullen, in Murder Under The Oaks, Bouchercon Anthology 2015, edite by Art Taylor, Down and Out Books, 2015.

I have a story in this anthology.

Ms. Pullen's tale is a heartwarming story of disease, robbery, blackmail, and other disasters.  Trust me.

Martha Sue's life is a mess.  Failing business, runaway husband, furious ex-best friend.  Everything changes when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Her neighbors, all of whom have financial problems of their own, come through in a big way for her.

So, it seems like  the least she can do for them is rob a few banks.  After all, what's the worst the law can do to her:  Put her in prison and give her free medical care?

Funny and sweet, in a twisted way.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Letters to the Purple Satin Killer, by Joshua Chaplinsky

"Letters to the Purple Satin Killer," by Joshua Chaplinsky, in Thuglit 20, 2015.

A funny story on a sad subject: people who obsess about serial killers.  Jonas Williker is on trial for multiple murders and his correspondents (almost all women) can't get enough of him. 

There is a twelve-year-old who wants him to embrace Jesus.  His mother assures him that she is confident he is innocent.  (She is watching Oz to keep informed of his situation.)  Staci, well, Staci is very blunt about what she wants but I can't repeat her requests here.  Then there is Ginny who tells him about the two  kids she adopted ("The approval process is faster for [special needs children], because no one wants them," and says "Whenever I get a letter from you I turn on Court TV and turn the volume down, so I can read it out loud and pretend you're talking to me."  And then there is Candace, a PhD student who wants to study women who are sexually attracted to criminals.  Purely for academic reasons, of course.

Horrible people.  Damned funny story.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gold Leaf, by Luanne Rice

"Gold Leaf," by Luanne Rice, in Providence Noir, edited by Ann Hood, Akashic Press, 2015.

"The women of Fox Point wore black because someone was always dying."

Nice opening line for a noir story, or a book of the same, true?

This is a tale about making a deal with the devil.  Not literally, but about setting a cat to catch a rat, which always leaves you with a cat to cope with.

The narrator is an artist.  "I worked in shorts and my bra, making portraits with the bodies of angels and the heads of local politicians.  I received good commissions but it didn't matter because my boyfriend was a lobbyist.  He paid my rent."

But when she gets jealous of her lover's wife, she  starts plotting a murder.  And that involves finding someone willing to kill.  If you have read any noir at all, you know this ain't gonna end well...

Very nice writing in a clever story. 
 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Everything is Bashert, by Heywood Gould

"Everything is Bashert," by Heywood Gould, in Jewish Noir, edited by Kenneth Wishnia, PM Press, 2015.

I have a story in this book, but let's talk about Mr. Gould's.  If Yiddish writer I.B. Singer collaborated with my pal R.T. Lawton on one of the latter's Holiday Burglar stories, the latter might be something like "Everything is Bashert."  Lawton's heroes are a couple of burglars whose brilliant plans always go to sheol.  Gould's Franny and Larson are two petty lowlifes who like to spend their days at Aquaduct.

And it is at that race track one day that they run into a hasidic gentleman they call the rabbi (he isn't).  The rabbi has a Bible-based system for betting on the horses, a sure thing of course, and yet somehow he is short of money.  Go figure.  Our heroes lend him some cash and, well, a wild ride commences that involves among other things, breaking into a morgue, and ends with a sort of spiritual enlightment.

"We're committing a mortal sin."
"Not our first.  Might as well get rich doing it."

A treat from start to finish.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jewish Easter, by David Liss

"Jewish Easter," by David Liss, in Jewish Noir, edited by Kenneth Wishnia, PM Press, 2015.

Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.

It's hard to write funny well.  It's hard to write grim well.  Do both at the same time and you've got something.

Al's family moved from Long Island to Jacksonville, Florida, when he was in third grade, because of his stepfather's import business.  Now he is thirteen and has begun to figure out exactly what is being imported.

But that's not his immediate problem.  There are a couple of anti-Semetic rednecks in his class and when they hear about Passover (which the sensitive teacher helpfully describes as "Jewish Easter,") they decide to invite themselves forcefully to the seder.  Let all who are hungry come and eat, right?

Sounds like a Manischewitz-fueled version of Key Largo.  But what I loved about the story is not the suspense but the surprising choices the characters make (especially the grandmother).  Al kept me guessing right up to the last paragraph.

More hardboiled than noir, but a fine piece of work.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Stolen Lives, by Johanna Holmstrom

"Stolen Lives," by Johanna Holmstrom, in Helsinki Noir, edited by James Thompson, Akashic Press, 2015.

This is a complex story, told in multiple flashbacks.  I had to go back and read parts of it a second time to see exactly what happened.  But the ending made it worthwhile.

Carin is a new mother and she blogs a lot about her joy in the experience, and her brilliance  at the task.  Also she hands down her dictates as to what is and isn't fashionable.  And writes about her handsome husband.

Sounds insufferable, huh?  But she isn't the main character.  Celestine lives nearby, and she watches Carin, online in real life.  But mostly Celestine obsesses over the death of her little brother when she was a child, for which she was partly responsible.

Did I mention that Carin leaves her baby, Gabriel, snoozing in his perfect stroller in the lovely fresh air outside her charming window while "Carin, with her shades drawn, is advising clueless mothers on how to best take care of their offspring.  And Celestine is standing on her balcony right across the street..."

Celestine has plans for Gabriel.  They don't go exactly right.  But what happens is quite astonishing, and worth a read.