Showing posts with label Level Best. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Level Best. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Pentecost, by Eve Fisher

"Pentecost," by Eve Fisher, in Me Too Stories, edited by Elizabeth Zelvin, Level Best Books, 2019.

This is the second appearance on this page by my fellow SleuthSayer, Eve Fisher.  All the stories in this book deal with sexual violence/harrassment against women.

As usual for Fisher, the story is set in rural South Dakota. It is 1990 and the Lutheran Church in Laskin has just acquired its first female pastor. Darla Koenig actually grew up in Laskin but has just moved back, giving her a unique insider/outsider perspective.  She is trying to settle in with her young daughter, finding her place in the delicate social web.

Her daughter loves the dance classes and there lies the rub, because the girls' dressing room shares an interior window with a respected local attorney.  And somehow the paint covering that window keeps getting scraped away...

Darla knows that raising a stink about it will make her enemies she can't afford.  Can she find another way to deal with it?

You bet.

A fun story.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Sleeping Beauty," by Gerald Elias.

"Sleeping Beauty" by Gerald Elias, in Noir at the Salad Bar, edited by Verena Rose, Harriette Sacker, and Shawn Reilly Simmons, Level Best Books, 2017.

A long way from noir, but an interesting piece of work.  The nameless narrator is a classical musician and, while eating at an elegant restaurant in  Manhattan, he witnesses a woman attacking a waitress for no obvious reason.  It turns out that she is a former star ballerina.

By coincidence, our narrator meets the ballerina a few years later and learns the reason for the attack.  This is a subtle little story, more about nuance and emotion than action, which seems somehow fitting for the professions involved.  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wehrkraftzersetzung, by Stephen D. Rogers

"Wehrkraftzersetzung," by Stephen D. Rogers, in Rogue Wave,: Best New England Crime Stories 2015,  edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, and Leslie Wheeler, Level Best Books, 2014.

We must begin with my annual complaint about the titles of the books in this series.  Since the book is published in 2014, clearly these aren't the anything stories of 2015.  And since they are published here for the first time, who the heck has decided they are the best of the year?

Having gotten that out of the way, let's discuss Mr. Rogers contribution.  This is a traditional detective story, in the sense that a murder is committed and solved, and I don't remember the last time one of those made my best-of list.  Not because I have a prejudice against them (as I admitted last week concerning fan fiction) but because they are a small percentage of the field these days.

One problem with the traditional formula in short story form is that it can fall into the category of eeny meeny murder mo,  in which the killer was either A, B, or C and you have no particular reason to care which of them did it because the characters are not much more than letters of the alphabet.

There is some of that in this story, but it is so unusual in its setting that Rogers easily overcomes that limit.  The story takes place on the Russian front during World War II.  Steiner, the narrator, is a German soldier.  In the middle of a very bad situation one of four new replacement soldiers has been killed - not by the enemy but by one of his comrades.  Steiner has apparently acquired a reputation for investigation and his commander orders him to figure out whodunit.  The search is short and cleverly done.  The conclusion is a logical extension of what happens in war.  A good, tough, story.
Best New England Crime Stories,” edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, Leslie Wheeler. Level Best Books, 2014, - See more at:
Best New England Crime Stories,” edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, Leslie Wheeler. Level Best Books, 2014, - See more at:
Best New England Crime Stories,” edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, Leslie Wheeler. Level Best Books, 2014, - See more at:
edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, Leslie Wheeler. Level Best Books, 2014, - See more at:
edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, Leslie Wheeler. Level Best Books, 2014, - See more at:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Confidante, by Diana Dixon Healy

"The Confidante," by Diana Dixon Healy, in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, and Leslie Wheeler, Level Best Books, 2013.

This is the best political fiction I have read in some time.  (Insert a joke about Obamacare or the George Washington Bridge here if you wish.)

I remember almost twenty years ago thinking that someone could craft a nice piece of fiction out of the fifteen minutes of fame of Linda Tripp.  You may remember that she was the bureaucrat Monica Lewinsky unwisely confided in.  I never got around to writing such a piece but Healy has, combining it with traces of another political scandal of more recent vintage.

Peggy is a mousy young woman who works for a presidential campaign. She is flattered when the more vibrant worker Kim takes an interest in her.  They start meeting regularly and Kim begins to tell her secrets, secrets that could change political history...

Some lovely twists in this one.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Rose Collection, by Louisa Clerici

"The Rose Collection," by Louisa Clerici, in Dead Calm: Best New England Crime Stories 2012, edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, LeslieWheeler, published by Level Best Books, 2012.

Some weeks I can't find a single story I like.  Some weeks, on the other hand,  there is an embarrassment of riches.  Take this book (and really, what's the idea of calling an anthology of new stuff the "Best" stories?  That's cheating.)

I thought "Plain Vanilla" by Michael Nethercott would make a fine choice for the week.  But before I hit the weekend I read "Boxed" by Daniel Moses Luft. And then along came this little character study by Louisa Clerici, which knocked them both out of competition.

Obsession is either comic or tragic, depending on how close you are standing to the fallout.  The narrator is Laura, a woman who lives a pleasant if slightly stir-crazy life in rural Indiana.  Her life is changed when an elderly neighbor leaves her a piece of costume jewelry: a brooch that was "all sparkly with a pale gold intricate rose."  Get used to detailed description, because Laura provides them for whatever she thinks is interesting, while glossing over things she considers less important.  And that, you might say, provides the key to her character.

Laura starts studying about jewelry at the library and discovers that the best chance to get more is a big flea market in Cumberland, Indiana. Problem is her husband doesn't want her to go.  That doesn't turn out to be a problem for long, because he dies.  In fact, it is best not to get between Laura and her jewelry plans.

Some people say that in genre literature the plot matters more than the language, while in mainstream literature it is the opposite.  In this story the language is the plot.