Showing posts with label MWA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MWA. Show all posts

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Three LIttle Words, by Nancy Pickard

"Three Little Words," by Nancy Pickard, in Mystery Writers of America present Manhattan Mayhem, edited by Mary Higgins Clark, Quirk,2015. 

Priscilla Windsor is a poor little rich girl.  Not only does she come from a horrible wealthy family, but on the first page she discovers that she is about to die.  "Death could only improve my life, she thought, and giggled wildly again."

Her long-time doctor, Sam Waterford, suggests she make a bucket list.  Priscilla's has only one item: TELL THE TRUTH.

Three days later, she is murdered.  Sam feels obliged to look into, not her death so much as her life.  What he finds is disturbing, but does it include the motive for murder?

A lot of twists in here, including one I found unsatisfactory, but a very nice story anyway.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Crush Depth, by Brendan Dubois

"Crush Depth," by Brendan DuBois, in Mystery Writers of America present Ice Cold: Tales of Intrigue from the Cold War, 2014.

Hard time choosing between two very different stories this week, both in Ice Cold, and both excellent.  Sara Paretsky's "Miss Bianca" is about intrigue in a biological research lab, as seen through the eyes of a child.  "Crush Depth" is a look back at a genuine mystery of American military history, offering a possible explanation.  The first is cute, the latter is grim.  What finally decided me was their surprise endings.  Paretsky's seemed tacked on, while Dubois's was a genuine twist, putting a new light on everything that went before.


In "Crush Depth" it is a year after the Soviet Union collapsed and an intelligence agent named Michael is hanging around the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, naval yard, trying to make contact with someone who knows the truth behind a naval tragedy from the 1960s.

Michael thought it ironic that his work and the work of so many others was still going on, despite peace supposedly breaking out everywhere.

Cold war or hot war, there was always plenty of work to be done...

True and sad enough. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Last Confession, by John Lescroat

"The Last Confession," by John Lescroat, in Mystery Writers of America present Ice Cold: Tales of Intrigue from the Cold War, 2014.

Not surprisingly, a lot of these stories about the Cold War focus on Berlin.  But my favorite so far takes place in the good ol' U.S.A. and features nary a soldier nor spy.  Instead Lescroat is interested in how the Cuban Missile Crisis affects one American family.  The narrator, now an adult, was a high school boy whose younger brother was what we would now call autistic.  He has a hard time in school but things seem to be going okay until that awful October, 1962...

I think what I like best in this story is a character type I don't remember seeing in fiction before, but whom I recognize from real life: a vain, charismatic guy who has no clue as to how he can damage people's lives.  And in this case, alas, he's a priest.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Secret Life of Books, by Angela Gerst

"The Secret Life of Books," by Angela Gerst,  in Mystery Writers of America Presents The Mystery Box, edited by Brad Meltzer, Grand Central Publishing, 2013.

It is a tricky business, writing fiction about real people; more so if the non-fictioner is your main character.  Besides the boring risk of being sued, there is the problem or doing research, and the fact that many of your readers may have a strong sense of what your character should be like, and that may disagree with yours.

I think Gerst does a good job, although I have to say that before I knew the story I knew nothing about Colette except that she was a famous French author, and the creator of Gigi, which became a famous movie.   So I may be off in my assessment of the story, but Gerst certainly convinced me she was drawing an accurate picture.

The story takes place late in Colette's life when her health makes her almost a prisoner in her apartment.  A famous prisoner, with a steady stream of visitors, some famous, and some not.  One of them is Roland, an ambitious chef whose boring chatter she tolerates for the extravagant dishes he brings her.  Roland is marrying a much younger country lass, who hopes to save her family's dwindling estate.  When someone gets killed, Colette must come to the rescue. 

The writing is good, and here is my favorite example.

"How long will your dear husband be away?"

"Too long."  Colette explained that Maurice was promoting her books in the world's richest land, "now that Europe has again reduced itself to ashes."

My darling Colette" -- Liane helped herself to more coffee -- "nobody reads in America."

"Oh, but there are so many of them, even nobody is ten thousand."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Remaining Unknowns, by Tony Broadbent

"The Remaining Unknowns," by Tony Broadbent, in Mystery Writers of America Presents The Mystery Box, edited by Brad Meltzer, Grand Central Publishing, 2013.

True confessions: I am not a big reader of suspense or thriller fiction, and that's what we have here.  Mr. Broadbent has presented a fine example of the genre, taut and well-written.  I enjoyed it a lot.

Bobby is a member of the bomb squad in New York City and he is tasked with disarming a van full of nasty stuff.  He reminds us of the saying that when you are about to die your life goes through your mind, and so we see his life, including the tragic circumstances that may have led him to the bomb squad.  The story flashes between the bomb job and the story of his life.

Hell of a life.  Here is part of his explanation of why he is unmarried:

Love may conquer all, but not all fears.  Love opens you up to fear in ways unimaginable before that love ever took hold of your heart.  I can walk into the mouth of hell every single day, but I will not take a woman or child I love in there with me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Waco 1982, by Laura Lippman

"Waco 1982," by Laura Lippman, in The Mystery Writers of America present The Mystery, Box, edited by Brad Meltzer, Grand Central Publishing, 2013. 



I opened, well, e-opened the new MWA anthology, and came across this nice and melencholy tale.  Marissa is a new and somewhat accidental reporter, on her first job in Waco, Texas.  Her tempermental boss gives her what feels like a fairly pointless assignment: writing an article about the sort of stuff that winds up in the lost and found boxes of motels in Waco.

And pointless it is.  But it turns out someone does have an ulterior motive, and there are layers of small city life under the surface that even that person is unaware of...  A nicely brooding reminder of life between the sexual revolution and the AIDS crisis.  Oh, and before the journalism market went down the tubes, too.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Final Ballot, by Brendan Dubois

"The Final Ballot," by Brendan DuBois, in Mystery Writers of America presents Vengeance, edited by Lee Child, Mulholland Books, 2012.

Boy, I don't know if it's just the dog days of summer affecting my mood but I can tell you I have just loved  the last three stories I chose for this column.  Real stand-outs.

Beth knew in a flash that she was outgunned.  This man before her had traveled the world, knew how to order wine from a meny, wore the best clothes and had gone to the best schools, and was prominent in a campaign to elect a senator from Georgia as the next president of the Untied States.

She put the tissue back in her purse.   And her?  She was under no illusions.  A dumpy woman from a small town outside Manchester who had barely graduated from high school and was now leasing a small beauty shop in a strip mall.

That's not the opening of the story but it is the core of it.  Ms David, meet Mr. Goliath.

Beth's daughter was brutally attacked by a son of the senator/candidate.  The man-of-the-world described above is the problem solver.  "In other words, I'm the senator's bitch."  He offers her two choices which he insists on calling "avenues."  She can pursue prosecution of the senator's son, guaranteeing herself years of being stripped naked by the press, attacked by his supporters, dragged out as a symbol by his enemies... or she can agree to let the culprit get psychological treatment and accept financial aid from the senator to cover her daughter's long-term medical needs.

I won't spoil it by telling you what happens next.  But two old sayings apply:  Never fight with someone who has nothing to lose.  And: the most dangerous place in the world is between a mother and her children.