Showing posts with label Strand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Strand. Show all posts

Monday, January 7, 2019

Milquetoast, by Olaf Kroneman

"Milquetoast," by Olaf Kroneman, in  The Strand Magazine, October 2018/January 2019.

Chances are you have met someone a bit like Colin Anderson.  Chances are you didn't enjoy it much.  He's the kind of middle-aged guy who invites you to dinner and makes you look at pictures of his championship college lacrosse team.  Oh joy.

Colin is now a successful surgeon but he isn't interested in working hard.  He prefers to spend his time being tennis and golf champion at the country club, and spending his wife's money.

But when she finds out what - or who - he is spending the money on, his life takes a sharp sudden turn. 

This is a clever story that involves a phenomenon so strange I had to look it up to see if it is real.  It is.  The delightful twists keep coming straight to the end.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Land of the Blind, by Craig Johnson,

"Land of the Blind," by Craig Johnson, in The Strand Magazine, October 2016 - January 2017.

It's Christmas Eve and Walt Longmire, sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, is on his way to a hostage situation.  A crazy druggie wearing only underpants has burst into a church and is pointing a gun at a woman's head, mumbling about God demanding a sacrifice.

And while Walt is the series hero the title clues you in that the star of this particular rodeo will be his deputy Double Tough, who lost one eye to a fire.  I won't tell you what happens, but it's very satisfying.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Asleep When Awake, by Duane Swierczynski

"Asleep When Awake," by Duane Swierczynski, in The Strand Magazine, June-September 2016.

This is Swierczynski's second appearance here.
 
As I have said before, yea, in this very space, you don't need a new plot device to write a terrific story.  You can just think of something original to do with an old one.

The idea of two personalities inhabiting one body goes back at least to Robert Louis Stevenson.  And that appears to be what's going on.

Gibbs is keeping a journal to try to make sense of what's going on in his life, and maybe in his head.  A woman in California invited him to her party so he driving all the way from Philadelphia for the occasion.  He has no clue why he would agree to do that.

But someone else writes in the journal too when Gibbs is drunk, and then maliciously destroys the pages...

Is this a simple case of psychosis or is something much more sinister going on?

I can't much more without giving stuff away. It is a satisfactory tale with several twists I did see coming.

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, September 6, 2015

Meet and Greet, by Ian Rankin

"Meet and Greet," by Ian Rankin, The Strand Magazine, July-October 2015.  

Sometimes you wonder where an author possibly got the idea for  a story.  In the case of this clever tale I think we can all make a guess.

Peppard and Jarman have a plan to make some quick dishonest cash.  Go to an airport and imitate the drivers who stand, holding signs, waiting for passengers to get off planes.  Collect the passenger before the real driver does, whisk him away and rob him.  A sure thing.
 
Well, if you have read any crime fiction at all, you know a sure thing is sure to go all to hell.  The reason this made my favorites list is the clever, and perfectly logical twist at the very end.
 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A People Person, by Michael Koryta

"A People Person," by Michael Koryta, in The Strand Magazine, November-February 2012-2013.

The Private Eye Writers of America named the Shamus nominees today and one of them is the story I chose last week: "The Sequel," by Jeffrey Deaver.  Excellent choice, but I am still feeling justified in listing Deaver's story and this one as 2013 because 1) I didn't read them until this year, and 2) the issue date covers through February of this year.  So there.

What Koryta has given us is a lovely little character study about Thor, who has been the hit man for two decades for Belov, who is the head of organized crime in Cleveland.  These two have been through tough times on two continents and, in a business that doesn't  support long-lasting relationships, they seem inseparable.

Thor had seen his father killed at age six, and that was not the first corpse he had viewed.

 The English word for the way Thor felt about killing was "desensitized," but he did not know that it was a proper fit.  Maybe he was overly sensitized.  Maybe he understood it more than most.  Maybe the poeple who had not killed or could not imagine being killed were the desensitized breed.

What could come between Thor and his boss?  Could there, to his own amazement, be a line he could not cross? 

Yup, and a very unexpected one it turns out to be.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Sequel, vy Jeffrey Deaver

"The Sequel," by Jeffrey Deaver, in The Strand Magazine, November-February 2012-2013.


What do these novels have in common?
A Confederacy of Dunces
Gone With The Wind
Mister Roberts 
Raintree Country
To Kill A Mockingbird

Well, besides being considered important American novels, they are each the only book by their authors.  There seems to be a special catgory in the American imagination for these books that stand alone either because the author died soon after writing it, or because the author chose to give up the field.

But imagine if another manuscript by such an author was found.  And what if it is a sequel to the classic?

That's the concept of Deaver's novella, and it is great fun.  Frederick Lowell is an elderly literary agent and one day he gets a letter that hints that one of his deceased clients wrote a sequel to his classic novel.  Lowell travels around the country in pursuit of it and - well, a lot of things happen.  In fact, it almost feels like Deaver made a list of every way this story could work out and then rang  the changes, covering every possibility. 

In the first half of the story he gives us a classic quest structure but when that ends we get a mystery, one with several red herring solutions, clever reversals and unexpected twists.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Not A Penny More, by Jon Land

"Not A Penny More," by Jon Land, in The Strand Magazine, February-May 2013.

This story made me nostalgic for Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine, which lived from one end of the 1980s to the other.  It specialized in fantasy and what you might call light horror.  For example, I still remember Evan Eisenberg's "Heimlich's Curse," about an archaeologist who opens a pharoah's tomb and winds up drowning in a vat of peanut butter.

My point is that this nifty story might have been quite comfortable in that late lamented market.  I'm glad it found a home at The Strand.

Walter Schnitzel is a loser and a loner.  He is a middle-aged accountant, watching younger men get promoted over his head.

But his life makes a sudden lurch when he takes an old clunker of a used Buick for a week-long test drive.  All of a sudden Walter gets lucky - in more senses than one.  His whole self-image changes as well.

So, is the car magic?  Is it all coincidence?  And, oh yeah, why is this story in a magazine full of crime stories?

All shall be revealed...


Sunday, March 31, 2013

In The After, by John Gilstrap

"In The After," by John Gilstrap, in The Strand Magazine, February-May 2013.

My story in this issue of The Strand  has been described as a tearjerker, which is enough to make me wonder if I'm going soft.  My fondness for Mr. Gilstrap's nasty little tale restores my faith in my own essential wickedness.

Tony and Elly Emerson have just returned home after dropping their daughter off for her first year of college.  They find their home invaded by a stranger who is after vengeance.  It seems a mistake Tony had made many years before has come back home to roost.  Some lives will be changed, and maybe a few ended, before the dust settles.


Tony felt himself breathing heavily again.  "Oh, my God.  You're insane."
Another laugh.  "Hardly.  I'm a teacher with a lesson plan."

Class is in session.