Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Little BIg News: Anthony Nominees, 2014

The Anthony Award nominees have been announced.  They will be voted on by those who attend the
Bouchercon Conference in Long Beach, and announced there in November.

Best Short Story Nominees
Craig Faustus Buck, “Dead Ends”
John Connolly, “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository”
Deni Dietz, “Annie and the Grateful Dead”
Travis Richardson, “Incident on the 405”
Art Taylor, “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants”
Best Short Story
° “Dead Ends” by Craig Faustus Buck, Untreed Reads
° “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
Bibliomysteries, The Mysterious Bookshop
° “Annie and the Grateful Dead” by Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry
° “Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson, Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble
° “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March-April 2013 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/05/anthony-nominations-bouchercon-2014.html#sthash.kb1QE2Fz.dpuf
Best Short Story
° “Dead Ends” by Craig Faustus Buck, Untreed Reads
° “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
Bibliomysteries, The Mysterious Bookshop
° “Annie and the Grateful Dead” by Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry
° “Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson, Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble
° “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March-April 2013 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/05/anthony-nominations-bouchercon-2014.html#sthash.kb1QE2Fz.dpufsss
Best Short Story
° “Dead Ends” by Craig Faustus Buck, Untreed Reads
° “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
Bibliomysteries, The Mysterious Bookshop
° “Annie and the Grateful Dead” by Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry
° “Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson, Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble
° “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March-April 2013 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/05/anthony-nominations-bouchercon-2014.html#sthash.kb1QE2Fz.dpuf


Best Short Story
° “Dead Ends” by Craig Faustus Buck, Untreed Reads
° “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
Bibliomysteries, The Mysterious Bookshop
° “Annie and the Grateful Dead” by Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry
° “Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson, Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble
° “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March-April 2013 - See more at: http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2014/05/anthony-nominations-bouchercon-2014.html#sthash.kb1QE2Fz.dpuf

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Splitting Adams, by Percy Spurlock Parker

"Splitting Adams," by Percy Spurlark Parker, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2014. 


Terry Adams is a very unhappy man.  He's not good with women and he blames it on his big brother Jerry.  Jerry is slick and smooth and always moves in on Terry when he is trying to get started with a new lady. 

It has just happened again and Terry, well, Terry is about to lose it.

A clever piece of flash fiction.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Second Sight Unseen, by Richard Helms

"Second Sight Unseen," by Richard, Helms, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2014.

Helms offers us what is intended to be the first in a series of stories.  The concept here isn't new (hey, Sherlock Holmes wasn't the first genius detective either) but the characters are intersting and the writing is amusing. 

The narrator is Boy Boatwright, a cop who should have retired but is living on booze and adrenalin.  (When the story starts he is waking up with his face on the toilet rim.)  But the hero, for lack of a better word, is the remarkably-named Bowie Crapster.  Crapster is "five and a half feet tall, with a figure like a Bradford pear."  He dresses in flashy clothes and "looked like the vanguard of a midget Elvis parade."

Crapster claims to be a psychic detective but he graciously gives the cops all the credit for his work.  He just wants the reward money.  Boatwright loathes him, but the fact is, he is a pretty shrewd sleuth.  In this case he deals with the apparent kidnapping of the young heir to a wealthy family. 

Will he solve it?  Will he drive Boatwright back to the booze?  "Some days it just doesn't pay to get up out of the toilet."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Little Big delay

Today's review will be a few days late.  To make it up to you, here is a webpage where you can find free links to  two of my own stories, one of them brand new.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Anchor Baby," by Shauna Washington

"Anchor Baby," by Shauna Washington, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2014.

Write what you know, so Shauna Washington, a Las Vegas-based fashion stylist, writes about Stacey Deshay, a Las Vegas-based fashin stylist. It's so crazy it just might work. 

And it works fine in this caper in which Stacey makes a special trip to Arizona to deliver a client's maid and baby to the mansion of the client's soon-to-be-ex-husband.  She gets their just in time to witness a murder and after that, things get worse.

Best thing about this story is the writing.  First person narrator is character.  "It was a long time since I'd traveled this far on a job, but since the recession hit, my new motto was 'Go where the money is, since it sure isn't coming to me.'


Sunday, April 27, 2014

International Vogue And The Pajama Fiasco Weekend, by Rosalind Barden

"International Vogue And The Pajama Fiasco Weekend," by Rosalind Barden, in Mardi Gras Murder, edited by Sarah E. Glenn, Mystery and Horror, LLC, 2014.

One of those subjects that literature professors like to discuss is the unreliable narrator.  That can be a person who is deliberately lying, like the narrator of a famous Agatha Christie novel.  But it can also be someone so deeply in denial or self-disception that he or she can only give us the most warped view of what is going on.

Among the latter you will find Josh McConnley, or at least we can call him that.  "That last name is one I've been trying out lately.  Goes with my persona.  Very strong, masculine, yet, sympathetic."

Josh, or whoever he is, is an actor, or is trying to be, and so obsessed with himself that the world is just a static backdrop to his running commentary.  Here he is chatting to an unwilling listener, of sorts:

I told him about my time studying Shakespeare in Pasadena, about my time in my high school drama club where no one appreciated how much more talented I was than them.  Of course I highlighted the airline commercial and pointed out how stupid the airline was.  When the airline dumped me, the agent I had back then dumped me too.  She said she was keeping my bad luck from "spreading."  That led me to discussion of my father.

All the characters are similarly pathetic types trying desperately to take advantage of each other.  Good luck with that.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hunters, by John M. Floyd

"Hunters," by John M. Floyd, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2014.

So, where do you get your ideas?  That's a question writers hear a lot.

One place is news stories.  Sometimes I will run across some bizarre thing that actually happened and file it away, thinking, hmm, yes, that could turn into fiction. 

My friend and fellow SleuthSayer, John M. Floyd, made something out of one of those news items that I never got around to, and more power to him.

Occasionally you hear about someone going on trial because they tried to hire a hitman, often in a bar, to kill someone.  It seems to me that it is usually a woman trying to bump off her husband, but that might be selective memory.

And this story is about Charlie Hunter, who owns a bar in a bump-in-the-road town in Mississippi and has an envelope full of cash ready to pay the hitman he is hiring to solve his marital problem.  As you can guess, things don't go according to plan.

What makes this story different is that it is not the usual bad-guy-tangled-in-his-own-web tale, but more of a mediocre-guy-with-second-thoughts affair.  No heroes, not a lot of villains, and a lot of gray lines.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Teddy, by Brian Tobin

"Teddy," by Brian Tobin, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 2014.

No fireworks in this one, no groundshaking concept or twist ending.  Just a solid story about two men, both of whom turn out to be a little better than they/we thought. 

Sean is a homeless man, a guy whose trail of bad luck runs from childhood, through service in Iraq to his current miserable life.  The one bright point is Teddy, the puppy he rescued from drowning two years ago.  In return Teddy has given him companionship, protection, and a reason to get up in the morning.

Andy, on the other hand, is making a lot of money in a quasi-legal business, but is willing to go further over the line to make more.  His problem is that he believes in the Sam Spade code: When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it.  When that happens, Andy steps up like a good citizen, and disaster follows.  

What ties these two men together is Teddy, the dog.  And maybe all three of them can find a way out of their mutual mess. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's So Peaceful In The Country, by WIlliam Brandon

"It's So Peaceful In The Country," by William Brandon, in Black Mask Magazine, 1943, reprinted in The Hard-boiled Detective, edited by Herbert Ruhm, Vintage Books, 1977.

I have been reading a lot of old hard-boiled stories lately, mostly from the Black Mask school.  A lot of them read like photocopies of Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op stories, some blurrier than others.  It made this story stand out by contrast.

Brandon's hero is Horse Luvnik, just out of jail on burglary charges and feeling unhappy because his beloved wife has decided she doesn't want him back until he goes straight.  And she has decided that going straight means buying a cigar store.  How he is supposed to gather enough coin to do that is his problem.  (I guess he can go straight after that.)

Things look bad but then Horse gets an invitation to Vermont.  A gentleman scholar there named Dingle is working on what he hopes will be the definitive book on Edgar Allan Poe's first editions.  The problem is that some of the information  he needs is in the home of his hated rival, a woman who lives a few miles away.  And since she refuses to share Dingle hires Horse to steal her notes every night -- and then smuggle them back into her house every morning.

As you can imagine, things quickly get silly.  It is as if Damon Runyan and P.G.Wodehouse collaborated on a hard-boiled tale.  The Continental Op might spin in his grave, but I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Little Big News: Derringers 2014

The Short Mystery Fiction Society has announced the winners of the Derringer Awards for 2014 and I am somewhat stunned to report that I am one of them.  You can read more about me me me here.

For Best Flash (Up to 1,000 words)

  • "Final Statement" by Robert Bailey (The Flash Fiction Offensive, July 18, 2013)
  • "Not My Day" by Stephen Buehler (Last Exit to Murder, Down & Out Books, June 2013)
  • "The Needle and the Spoon" by Allan Leverone (Shotgun Honey, November 15, 2013)
  • "Luck is What You Make" by Stephen D. Rogers (Crime Factory, May 2013)
  • "Terry Tenderloin and the Pig Thief" by John Weagly (Shotgun Honey, June 21, 2013)

For Best Short Story (1,001–4,000 words)
  • "Pretty Little Things" by Chris F. Holm (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2013)
  • "The Present" by Robert Lopresti (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2013)
  • "The Sweetheart Scamster" by Rosemary McCracken (Thirteen by the Mesdames of Mayhem, August 2013)
  • "The Little Outlaw" by Mike Miner (Plan B Magazine, August 9, 2013)
  • "The Cemetery Man" by Bill Pronzini (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2013)

For Best Long Story (4,001–8,000 words)
  • "Myrna!" by John Bubar (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)
  • "Bloody Signorina" by Joseph D'Agnese (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2013)
  • "GIVE ME A DOLLAR" by Ray Daniel (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)
  • "Dance Man" by Andrew Jetarski (Last Exit to Murder, Down & Out Books, June 2013)
  • "A Dangerous Life" by Adam Purple (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)

For Best Novelette (8,001–20,000 words)
  • "The Serpent Beneath the Flower" by Jack Bates (Mind Wings Audio, April 2013)
  • "The Goddaughter's Revenge" by Melodie Campbell (Orca Rapid Reads, October 2013)
  • "For Love's Sake" by O'Neil De Noux (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2013)
  • "The Antiquary's Wife" by William Burton McCormick (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2013)
  • "Last Night in Cannes" by James L. Ross (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November 2013)

EDWARD D. HOCH MEMORIAL GOLDEN DERRINGER FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
  • Ed Gorman

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Knock On The Door, by Jas. R. Petrin

"A Knock On The Door," by Jas. R. Petrin, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, April 2014.

I have written before about my admiration for Jas. R. Petrin's stories about Skig Skorzeny, an aging Halifax loanshark with a gut full of cancer and a heart of, well, not gold, but something more than the rock he pretends to possess.

I'm not going to dwell on the plot of this story (late wife's niece, missing person) but instead I want to concentrate on the writing.  As I went through the tale I found myself marking passages I like (perhaps the only benefit  of my not having a story of my own in this issue.  I don't need to save it).  So, with no further ado:

Skig to a delinquent customer who is suffering from a protection racket: 

"Those partners of yours bleed you again before I get paid, I'm gonna attend their next shareholders meeting.  In fact, I might anyway."
"Please don't do that."
"Could be fun.  A hostile takeover.  Tell 'em."

Skig about to have an MRI:
"So, Mr. Skorzeny, is there any metal, iron, nickel, or cobalt on or in your body?"
"Cobalt?  What the hell is cobalt?"
"A metal--"
"Inside me?"
"Yes."
"How would I know?  This body's been through some pileups.  Do bullets have cobalt in them?"

The narrator explains why Skig moved into an old filling station:
After Jeanette died, the house had seemed too empty during the day, and too full at night, all the ghosts peering out of the woodwork.

A cop asks Skig for help:
"Help you?  Listen, I'm responsible for half the overtime you get."

And, at random:
"Nobody knows nothing anymore," Skig said.  "The information age."

Treat yourself.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Lord of Central Park, by Avram Davidson

"The Lord of Central Park," by Avram Davidson, in The Investigations of Avram Davidson, St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Well, it has happened again as it occasionally does.  I did not read any stories this week I liked enough to report on so instead I am bringing up one from my top fifty.  I remember reading this novella when it originally appeared in the October 1970 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, under the dreadful name of "Manhattan Night's Entertainment."  Frederic Dannay was a great editor but a horrific tinkerer with titles.

Avram Davidson had one of those staggering imaginations, like John Collier, James Powell, or Terry Pratchett.  You just never knew what would pour out of his typewriter.  In this case it the simple story of a young lady from New Jersey and her encounters with a pickpocket, the Mafia, the Nafia, an Albanian Trotskyite who wants to blow up the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hudson River pirates, and, of course, the Lord High Keeper of the Queen's Bears, who lives in a cave in Central Park.

Okay, maybe I lied about it being a simple story.

The main character is really the titular Lord, alias Arthur Marmaduke Roderick Lodowicke William Rufus de Powisse-Plunkert, 11th Marques of Grue and Groole in the peerage of England, 22nd Baron Bogle in the Peerage of Scotland, 6th Earl of Ballypatcooge in the Peerage of Ireland, Viscount Penhokey in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, Laird of Muckle Greet, Master of Snee, and Hereditary Lord High Keeper of the Queen's Bears.

By now you have probably figured out that Davidson loves words, for their own sake.  He also uses them to tell a wonderful story. 

The Marquess is broke and dishonest, which explains why he lives in a cave, cadging most of his meals from meat his trained falcon steals off grills on the surrounding balconies.  He is a sharp fellow and when he spots rope in a store window that could only have been swiped from the British Navy he finds himself confronting the aforementioned river pirates who vehemently deny that they are pirates.  You see, Peter Stuyvesant gave the family the right to collect taxes in 1662, just before the Dutch surrendered to the British.

For a moment no word broke the reverent silence.  Then, slowly, Lord Grue and Groole removed his cap.  "And naturally," he said, "your family has never recognized that surrender.  Madam, as an unreconstructed Jacobite, I honor them for it, in your person."  He gravely bowed.

I won't attempt to explain how everyone else fits into this mad mosiac.  Just get your hands on the story and read it.  Why it hasn't been made into a movie is one of those inexplicable mysteries.  It's practically a film right on the page.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Busting Red Heads, by Richard Helms

"Busting Red Heads," by Richard Helms, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine,  March/April
2014.

I have said before that my favorite stories tend to have at least one of three qualities: a great concept, heightened language, or a surprise ending.  Helms' story scores on the first two and makes a shot at the third.

Here's the concept: Tommy Crane fought in World War I, joined the Boston Police, and then figured he could make more money by joining a detective agency.  But like a lot of "detectives" in the twenties his job wasn't to solve crimes; it was to stop Bolsheviks, being defined as anyone who wanted to form or join a union.  This is a part of the private dick business I don't remember anyone writing about before.

 By heightened language I mean that the words are there for something more than just telling the story.  In this case, they tell you a lot about character:

Three of us -- me, Everett Sloop, and Warren Johns -- were sitting in the Kansas City office in August of 1923, trying to stay cool and counting the minutes until we could shove off and grab a cool beer down the street.  Jess Coulter, our commander, walked in and scowled when he saw us.
"You guys packed?"
"We goin' somewhere?" Johns asked. 
"Rawlings, Kentucky."
"Don't much care for Kentucky," Sloop said.
"There's the door," Coulter said.  "Nobody's holding you here."
That shut Sloop up but good.

In Kentucky they get to work beating up strikers but things go wrong when they  attack the union office.  The wrong people die and there's a mystery to solve.   Good story.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Assumption of Seamus Tyrrell, by David Dean

"The Assumption of Seamus Tyrrell," by David Dean, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine,  March/April 2014.

David Dean is having a good year.  For brother SleuthSayer is appearing in this space for the second time in a month.

Exhibit B, if you will, is his entry in EQMM's Black Mask Department, and a tough-as-nails piece it is. It begins in Florida where a hit man is having a very bad day.  He's being followed by a cop car and there is a packet of drugs sitting cozily on his passenger seat.  Things then turn much worse -- I won't tell you how, but it's a doozy -- and this sets up the rest of the story, which takes place in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

When Seamus Tyrrell walked into the backroom of the Shamrock Bar and Grill he understood that everything had changed in his absence.  In the few seconds that it took to push through the door, shout, "Hello, girls!" and set the satchel full of cash down on the sticky floor, everything he knew and trusted began to dissolve into a blur of action.

For some reason Seamus's boss and friends want him dead and make a concerted effort to achieve that goal.  Escaping by a narrow margin he has to figure out why this happened, and more importantly, how to change the equation. 

The Catholic Church often has a big role in Dean's stories, and this is true here, but that doesn't mean things get, shall we say, spiritual.  Last time I wrote about the hero of his story having a chance to redeem himself.  This time, not so much.   A gripping tale, worth reading.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Raider, by Janice Law

"The Raider," by Janice Law, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 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.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Little Big News: Derringer Nominations 2014``````

The Short Mystery Fiction Society has announced the nominations for the Derringer Awards 2014.  Congratulations to all!  I must admit to being especially pleased about one of the nominations for the short fiction award.

For Best Flash (Up to 1,000 words)

  • "Final Statement" by Robert Bailey (The Flash Fiction Offensive, July 18, 2013)
  • "Not My Day" by Stephen Buehler (Last Exit to Murder, Down & Out Books, June 2013)
  • "The Needle and the Spoon" by Allan Leverone (Shotgun Honey, November 15, 2013)
  • "Luck is What You Make" by Stephen D. Rogers (Crime Factory, May 2013)
  • "Terry Tenderloin and the Pig Thief" by John Weagly (Shotgun Honey, June 21, 2013)

For Best Short Story (1,001–4,000 words)
  • "Pretty Little Things" by Chris F. Holm (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2013)
  • "The Present" by Robert Lopresti (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2013)
  • "The Sweetheart Scamster" by Rosemary McCracken (Thirteen by the Mesdames of Mayhem, August 2013)
  • "The Little Outlaw" by Mike Miner (Plan B Magazine, August 9, 2013)
  • "The Cemetery Man" by Bill Pronzini (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July 2013)

For Best Long Story (4,001–8,000 words)
  • "Myrna" by John Bubar (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)
  • "Bloody Signorina" by Joseph D'Agnese (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2013)
  • "Give Me a Dollar" by Ray Daniel (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)
  • "Dance Man" by Andrew Jetarski (Last Exit to Murder, Down & Out Books, June 2013)
  • "A Dangerous Life" by Adam Purple (Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, Level Best Books, September 2013)

For Best Novelette (8,001–20,000 words)
  • "The Serpent Beneath the Flower" by Jack Bates (Mind Wings Audio, April 2013)
  • "The Goddaughter's Revenge" by Melodie Campbell (Orca Rapid Reads, October 2013)
  • "For Love's Sake" by O'Neil De Noux (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2013)
  • "The Antiquary's Wife" by William Burton McCormick (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2013)
  • "Last Night in Cannes" by James L. Ross (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, November 2013)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Clan, by Tony Richards

"The Clan," by Tony Richards, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2014.


I have written once before about Tony Richards' satisfying series of science-fiction mystery stories set in a near-future Federated Africa.  To my mind, this story is the best so far.

Abel Enetame has been promoted to captain in the African police for his work against people who would like to reduce the continent to the good old days of tribal warfare, but now he is pressured to go undercover against a new enemy.  The Anti-Caucasian Clan is attacking Caucafricans -- white citizens of the federated state.  Worse, they are killing them in impossible ways, getting in and out of locked rooms at will.

Abel goes undercover in situations that put him in ethically sticky situations and watching him slip around them is one of the pleasures of the story.  His method of defeating the impossible killers is the other.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Murder Town, by David Dean

"Murder Town," by David Dean, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2014.

My fellow SleuthSayer David Dean has written a fine story in the "Most Dangerous Game" variety.   Terry Holliday is in a Mexican prison for crimes he committed, and some he didn't.  his is not what you would call a model prison either.

'Of course, you realize that should you choose to stay with us here, you will surely die," the commandante offered smoothly.  He didn't appear to be particularly troubled by the possibility."

Holliday is presented with a chance to get away from the guards and fellow prisoners who want him dead.  It seems a group of wealthy philanthropists are running a parole program for certain prisoners.  Ah, but we already know that there is a catch.  The program sends him to Murder Town.

I have said before I enjoy stories in which characters have a chance at redemption, even if they choose not to take it.  Holliday has to find a way to survive, but he may also have a way to dig himself out of the moral pit he has trapped himself in. 

Lovely story with a very convincing view of Yucatan along the way.

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, February 2, 2014

The Art of Authentification, by Christopher Welch

"The Art of Authentification," by Christopher Welch., in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2014.

This is at least the fourth story by Welch in this series, but the first time he has made my best-of-the week list.  Bridgman is an art dealer in the Berkshires.  In each story he and his partner find themselves reluctantly involved in crimes related to art.

And let us pause to talk about one of the many things a mystery can do.  It can reveal details about some aspect of the world that most of us know nothing about.  In this case the subject is art authentification.

Bridgman's gallery contains some paintings by a recently deceased artist named Madie Balan.  The trust that supervises her estate insists that he can't legally sell them unless (and until) they authenticate them as genuine Balans.  But the members of the trust own some of her work, which means every work they declare genuine makes their own property less rare and therefore less valuable.

Conflict of interest?  You betcha.  But that's not the whole story, because determining whether the works are genuine may be impossible.  Apparently the artist sometimes started a work and let someone else finish it.  (Hey, so did Rembrandt...nothing new there.)  So the matter of real and fake is almost a matter of philosophy.

And I haven't even mentioned the murder. 

Two complaints about the story.  The protagonists don't actually solve it.  They merely accidentally cause the killer to reveal himself.  Yes, they fall into the category of amateur detectives, but that's a little more amateur than I prefer.

And second is a more personal gripe.  This story features characters named Bridgman, Balan,  Bess, and Bosch.  At two points the author and/or editor get confused and Bess becomes Beth.  There are twenty-six perfectly good letters in the alphabet.  Why torture the reader like that?