Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Rusch. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Rusch. Sort by date Show all posts

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Really Big Ka-Boom, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

"The Really Big Ka-Boom," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February, 2015.

Apologies for misspelling Ms. Rusch's name, now fixed.

I may have to revise my rule about what makes a story one of my favorites.  I have said they tend to have at least one of three characteristics: a great concept, a twist ending, or heightened language.  Ms. Rusch has reminded me of a fourth method to reach the winner's circle.

Great characters.

The plot of this story is not brilliant, but that doesn't matter.  The characters carry it.  (Let's face it: Wolfe and Archie lifted Rex Stout above some pretty poor plots.)

The narrator is Spade, a three-hundred-fifty pound retired software millionaire whose life revolves around science fiction conventions, for which he provides accounting skills.  His soulmate (he wishes) is Paladin, a young private eye who is everything he isn't (except dumb and socially competent): she is small, beautiful, perpetually angry, and rash.  Clearly they balance each other out.

In this story they wind up in Portland, Oregon at Christmas time, accompanied by Caspar, a homeless thirteen-year-old computer whiz they rescued in an earlier adventure.  The main story begins when they go out to eat and a nearby building explodes.   And Paladin, as Spade notes, is the sort of person who rushes into a burning building.

Now, my first paragraph did not mean that  Rusch does not provide some wonderful language in this story.  Try out this paragraph:

Paramedics had moved a lot of the people Paladin saved, sorting them as if they were damaged collectibles and someone had to grade them: Fair, Very Fair, Good.  The folks in Mint condition stood to one side, and those who were judged Poor had already been stuffed into ambulances and driven to hospitals.

Lovely.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trick or Treat, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

"Trick or Treat," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery magazine, December 2012.

This was a tough week, since Hitchcock featured stories by two of my favorite writers about two wonderful series characters.  Mitch Aldeman's Bubba Simms stories and Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Spade/Paladin tales have several things in common.  Both feature men who are six-five, and both rely more on character and language than on plot.  But there are big differences as well.


Bubba is a three-hundred-pound weightlifter; a private eye in Florida.  Spade is a four-hundred-pound Microsoft millionaire who uses his money and numbers skills as a forensic accountant to run the finances for science fiction conventions.  Spade (that's his nom de fandom, we never learn is real one) has an occasional partner, Paladin, an athletic young woman who is his opposite in physique, temperment, and almost everything except intellect.

The reason I chose Rusch's story this time is that it had a more interesting plot than Aldeman's "Eureka."  I could see where that story was headed pretty much from the beginning, but Rusch's story took it's time in unfolding. 

In "Trick or Treat," Spade is working at a convention in San Francisco on Halloween weekend when Paladin asks him to help out by babysitting a troublesome kid named Casper.  Spade, well aware that an overweight misfit millionaire hanging around with a child could be misconstrued, grumbles "The worst situations in the world always start with the words, 'trust me.'"   But he always finds it hard to resist Paladin.

The center of the story is the fat man and the grumpy Casper, both smart and both lacking social skills, trying to establish a productive relationship.  Naturally, it involves computer programs.  And crime.

Both stories are very much worth a read.

 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Wedding Ring, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

"The Wedding Ring," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2018.

This is Rusch's sixth appearance on this site.

I try to treat all my little darlings equally, rooting the same for every story I read but I admit that sometimes a concept or opening is so strong I find myself cheering the author on:  Keep going!  Don't screw this up!  

Rusch didn't screw it up.  Here is the concept I liked so much: Serena is a classics professor and after a bad breakup she goes to Las Vegas for what she calls her Liberation Vacation.  There she meets the man of her dreams.  Shortly after that they are married.  Shortly after that he disappears, taking her cash, self-confidence, and so much more.

One cop says about the crooks: "They're not in it for the money.  They're in it to destroy their marks."

Serena replies.  "They didn't destroy me...  I'm right here. And I'm going to destroy them right back."   To do that all she has to do is become a completely different person.  Hell hath no fury, and all that...

There's a lot of thoughtful detail in this novella.  For example: the title does not refer to a piece of jewelry.  Or consider the name: Serena.  Or the final moniker the bad guy chooses.  (It tolls for thee, baby.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Christmas Eve at the Exit, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

"Christmas Eve at the Exit," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 2015.

This is Rusch's fifth appearance on my best-of-the-week list, which I believe puts her in a tie for first place with Brendon Dubois.

It is Christmas eve and Rachel and her little girl are on the run.  Many pages will pass before we find out from who, and about the shadowy support system that is helping them.

Rachel is terrified, not sure who to trust, and desperately trying to keep up an appearance of normality for her daughter who, heartbreakingly, seems mostly concerned about Santa Claus.

And that's enough from me.  Rusch carries the story off with great audacity.  I am sure it will appear in holiday-themed anthologies for years to come.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Crossing the River Styx, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

"Crossing the River Styx," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November 2014.

They'd left, all of them.  They'd left, taking the light with them.  Now Edith huddled in the darkest place she'd ever been in, her face, hands, and shirtwaist soaked with blood.  Frank was dead beside her.  She'd known that from the moment the shot hit him.  Hot blood spurted out of him, coating her, and he made all kinds of groaning sounds.

Someone shouted, "Murder!" and the others ran as if their lives depended on it...

Well.  That's an exciting way to start a story, isn't it?

The illustration clued me in to the fact that this takes place in the 1920s, which made me think we were in a Bonnie-and-Clyde scenario, but not quite.  Edith is a proper young woman on her honeymoon and Frank has taken her to the Oregon Caves.  That's where the extreme darkness comes in.

Now Edith has to find a way out of the cave by herself (crossing a creek known as, yes River Styx) and figure out whether she is in danger from the men who fought with  her husband.

The other key viewpoint character is Albert, a mechanic employed by the Forest Service that runs the caves. They will both learn something about themselves before the night is over.

As usual, a very good story from Ms. Rusch.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Assets Protection, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

"Assets Protection," by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2014.  

Rusch is one of my favorite current authors of mystery short stories, and this caper story is a good example of why.

Carla is an ex-con, gone straight after a fashion.  She gets hired by businesses to test their security, especially their susceptibility to high-level shoplifting schemes.

At a conference she sees Grady, the abusive cop who arrested her.  He is now living high on the hog as the head of security for a department store chain.  It doesn't take Carla long to discover that he has a sneaky money-making scheme of his own, and so she sets out to derail him.  "She needed to show Grady just what it was like to lose."

To do this she needs the help of a low-level celebrity, and fortunately she knows one, an actor named Jimmy who used to share her lawyer before he got famous.  He doesn't need the money, but he does crave a little larceny...

I would enjoy seeing these two in action again.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Man With The Twisted Lip, by Terence Faherty

"The Man With The Twisted Lip," by Terence Faherty, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2015.

Last week I noted that Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Brendan Dubois were tied for first place with five appearances in my best-of-the-week list.  By coincidence, a third writer enters that august rank today.

My former co-blogger Terence Faherty has come up with a great gimmick.  He claims to have discovered Dr. John Watson's notebooks, containing the rough drafts of Sherlock Holmes adventures, before they were "cleaned up for publication."  This is the fourth such publication and I consider it a significant improvement of the oroginal, which was not one of Doyle's masterpieces.

Both versions begin with a woman calling at the home of Watson and his wife, desperate because her husband has disappeared.  In Doyle's version the man is a drug addict and has vanished into an opium den.  In Faherty's tale the same man is a serial philanderer and is apparently staying in a hotel of bad repute.  In both tales Watson finds Holmes there in disguise but what he is seeking is different - although the solution has some amusing similarities. 

I won't go into detail.  Watson correctly notes that the story has the elements of a French farce and Holmes says he is just trying to prevent it from turning into a Greek tragedy.

"My husband returns!" Rita exclaimed.
"Not a moment too soon," Holmes said.
"You don't understand.  He's insanely jealous.  And violent.  If he finds me in here--"
Holmes sprang up.  "Watson, I bow to your experience.  Under the bed?"

Heresy of the best kind.  And it provides an answer to one of the eternal questions debated by players of the Game.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reason to Believe, by Mat Coward

"Reason to Believe" by Mat Coward, in Death By Horoscope, edited by Anne Perry, Carroll and Graf, 2001.

Ran across this 2001 collection at the library and it had a lot of good authors (Block, Rusch, Lovesey, etc.) so I thought I'd give it a try. Some of the stories assume astrology is real, some assume it is bogus. I, a definite bogus-er, enjoyed some of each, but this was the stand-out.

In a funny story, what exactly is funny? It could be the language. It could be the narration (not quite the same as the language.) It could be situation. It could be character.

I think one of the reason so many of Donald E. Westlake's books were made into bad movies was that a lot of his humor is in the narration, and that doesn't carry over onto the screen at all. And speaking of language, I remember Stephen Fry complaining when he portrayed P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves that the first time Jeeves appears in the books, he "shimmered" in. How exactly was Fry supposed to "shimmer in?"

The humor in this story is mostly character-based. Specifically it revolves around our hero, DS Harry Peacock of the Metropolitan Police. Harry has a somewhat eccentric view of the world and conducts an ongoing conversation with himself that cheerfully overflows in ways that baffle his companions and delight the reader.

Peacock is no fool so when he is talking to his boss his rebellious thoughts stay inside.

"OK. You all right to run with this for a little longer?"

Harry wondered what would happen if he said that, in fact, non, he wasn't OK to run with this, that, in fact, he rather thought he'd spend the rest of the day swmming in the lido. It WAS a hot day. He wouldn't mind a swim.

"Yes sir," said Harry.


Later someone threatens to report him to his superiors and Harry replies: "I have no superiors... They're small men with mustaches."

The story has a plot. Did I mention that? A man who doesn't believe in astrology has been regularly meeting with an astrologer and now he has disappeared. Harry has a strong suspicion as to what has happened and eventually he proves it. But along the way we get conversation like this one with the horoscope scribbler.

"Astrology is not as hot as it was when I started up. The public is fickle."

Harry gave a sympathetic nod. "Those feng shui bastards, eh? Coming over here and stealing our jobs."