Sunday, November 3, 2013
I believe in full disclosure, which in the case of this blog means that you deserve to know if I might have some reason to favor a story other than its quality.
In this case it is a triple threat. Not only is Janice Law a friend of mine, and a fellow blogger at SleuthSayers, but I can also claim a tiny bit of credit for this story existing at all. I was the one who suggested to Janice that she do something she had never done before: write more than one story about a character. I think this is the fourth in this series, although I might be off.
And what a wonderful character she is. Madame Selina is a spiritualist in New York City in the years after the Civil War, when quite a number of people long to speak to their dead loved ones. Madame is assisted by Aurelius, the former emperor of Rome who allegedly speaks to her in trances, and by Nip Tompkins, formerly of the orphan's home, who assists with clouds of smoke and other special effects when the emperor proves unreliable.
In this adventure, a psychic investigator has arrive din the Big Apple and is making good money by revealing the tricks used by so-called mediums. Madame Selina, no shrinking violet, applies the challenge direct, publishing an open letter thanking the professor on behalf of the true psychics for revealing their fraudulent competition. She knows this will bring the man to her parlor. Now she needs young Nip to find a weakness she can use...
"The mind needs little helps," explains Madame Selina. And by hook or by crook she will provide them, and catch the bad guy in the process.
Monday, May 17, 2021
Janice Law is one of my favorite contemporary short storyists, as demonstrated by the fact that this is her seventh appearance here. She is also my friend and a fellow SleuthSayer.
Edie and Cynthia are older women, two sisters with an unusual occupation. They create highly detailed dioramas of crime scenes. Usually they are commissioned by forensic conferences to show actual murders or create training puzzles.
But their current assignment is different. A private client has asked them to reconstruct the scene of an unsolved murder. What's his motive?
"It was an article of faith with [Cynthia] that a really complete reconstruction held the solution..."
The ending cleverly ties the title in. I wonder how many readers will understand that part?
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Can you set a mystery story in a war?
Of course, you can. There are plenty of examples, but it seems odd. Hundreds or thousands of people getting killed and somehow we choose to focus on one death and say that one was wrong.
This was brought to mind by an excellent story by my fellow SleuthSayer, Janice Law. It is set during the Bleeding Kansas period, a few years before the Civil War when people were in brutal combat over whether that territory would be a free or slave state.
They were burned out on the spring of '56 in a raid that left nothing but the walls of the soddy and a few chickens that flew down out of the oak trees and pecked through the debris. His father sat by the ruins of the new barn with his head in his hands and his face the color of ashes....
Young Chad wants to get a horse and seek revenge. He gets his wish and the story turns grim. In a situation like this, maybe there can't be any good guys.
Sunday, February 4, 2018
In her fifth appearance at this blog, my friend and fellow SleuthSayer Janice Law has offered a story that is more fantasy than mystery. But never fear, it does have a criminal, or, as Ellery Queen used to say, criminous, element.
Ever since he lost his wife, Frank had immersed himself in sports, especially in his all-time favorite, ice hockey.
So we begin. One day lonely Frank, walking through Manhattan sees, among the vendors, a "little makeshift stand offering sports CDs and DVDS..." The merchant is "thin, almost gaunt, and very dark so that his large eyes gleamed above the bold cheekbones and the wide, and to Frank's mind, somewhat predatory nose." Sounds a bit spooky? How about when he calls "I have what you need"? A cautious man would run but Frank invests ten bucks in a DVD of the 1994 Rangers v. Devils match. "Take you back where you want to go," the vendor promises.
And sure enough, when he pops it in the machine and starts it, his apartment is suddenly back in 1994, and he hears his wife cooking in the kitchen. Astonishing. But, well, what happens when the last game on the DVD ends?
This story grabbed me from beginning to end.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Malik has the fortune, good or bad, of resembling the General, his country's beloved dictator. Naturally he is assigned the job of impersonating the General, saving him from boring meetings and assassingation attempts.
But the General is a far-thinker and he sends Malik, with proper supervision, to set up a new life for himself in Miami, just in case at some time in the future the General turns out not to be so beloved. And that works fine until the inevitable happens.
Because only one person can live that new life, right?
Monday, May 27, 2019
Before we get to the main event, I want to point something out. This issue contains a story by William Burton McCormick The introductory note points out that McCormick "made the SleuthSayers list for Best Short Stories of the Year in 2016." I believe that is the first time an editor made note in writing of my annual best fest. Nice to be noticed.
This is the sixth appearance here by my friend and fellow SleuthSayer.
Jess is a poor little rich girl. What she really wants is a puppy but her very busy parents say a real dog is too much trouble, so they get her a fake canine from a company called My Companions.
Mom explains: "My Companion has a repertoire of phrases that come loaded, but the neat thing, Jess, is that this toy learns. As you talk to it, it learns and responds! Now, isn't that better than a puppy?"
Meh. But after a particularly bad day at school Jess talks to the fake dog whom she names Piper.
And Piper talks back. Sure enough, his personality does develop. In particular, he takes a deep interest in Daddy's collection of fine and expensive art...
Jess is lonely and depressed but she isn't dumb. She sees what is going on, but what should she do about it? A haunting little tale.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
This is the fourth time my friend and fellow SleuthSayer has made it into this column.
Raymond Wilde is a private eye in a small town in Connecticut where high school football is a big thing. His client is Harold Bain, a wealthy and abrasive man, who wants Ray to prove that the school quarterback is a ringer, not really living in the town. He says that he's concerned about the taxpayers being ripped off, but he really wants to get the outsider out of the way so his own son can move up to quarterback.
Ray investigates but quickly gets distracted by another house on the same block where mysterious goings-on are, uh, going on. Some of them involve Harold Bain, Jr.
What I liked best about this story is the ending, in which several characters show unexpected sides of their personalities. You might even call it a happy ending.