Sunday, May 1, 2016

Shrink Rap, by Craig Faustus Buck

"Shrink Rap," by Craig Faustus Buck, in Pulp Modern, 10, 2016.

One thing that has always bugged me (trust me, there are others) is what I call the "different-with-me fallacy."  A typical example would be: "Sure, my lover cheated on her husband, but this is different.  She won't cheat on me because I am/we have something special."  Like Oscar Wilde said about second marriages, it is the triumph of imagination over experience.

On the other hand, you might say that Talia, in this story, suffers from a lack of that fallacy.  She used to have a lot of mental and addictive problems, but her wonderful psychologist cured her.  And became her lover.

But he would never violate his professional ethics and their relationship by seducing another patient because... Uh, because...

If she suspects him of misbehaving is she suffering from paranoia, or merely pattern recognition?

Good story.

Agatha Awards

Congratulations to Barb Goffman, whose story "A Year Without Santa Claus?" won the Agatha Award, given last night at the Malice Domestic Convention.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Edgar winners announced

Congratulations to Steven King who took home the Edgar for best short story for "Obits" from his Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Russell W. Johnson who scored the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for best first story. His "Chung Ling Soo’s Greatest Trick" appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Creampuff, by Rob Hart.

"Creampuff," by Rob Hart, in Unloaded, edited by Eric Beetner, Down and Out Books, 2016.

Clever concept for an anthology: crime stories without guns.  Profits will go to States United to Prevent Gun Violence.

As for Mr. Hart, making his second appearance in this space, while his story features a violent crime, it feels more mainstream than genre.  It's a sort of character study or slice-of-life (slice-of-death?) piece about the titular character.

The big man they call Creampuff has a job that could only exist in a city as big and crazy as New York.  He is a bouncer in a bakery.  You see, the chef has come up with a baked treat so popular that people line up before opening to buy one, and they are all gone before nine A.M.  And since they are so trendy, a whole of Important People feel they should be able to cut in line to get theirs.

Creampuff disagrees.  And he can make it stick because "[h]e was huge, like a recurring childhood nightmare."

Here is our hero at work:

There were the Richie Riches who would stride up to him and wave a bill under his nose.  Usually a twenty, sometimes a hundred.  Creampuff would take it, stick it in a pouch on his belt that read "donations for charity," and cross his arms. 

No one ever asked for their money back.

An enjoyable and well-written piece.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Ballad of Maggie Carson, by Cheryl Rogers.

"The Ballad of Maggie Carson," by Cheryl Rogers, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine,  May 2016.

This is Australian Cheryl Rogers's third appearance in this space.  And what a treat it is.  Here's the opening.

David's lifeless body sits ramrod straight in the passenger seat.

The recently widowed Maggie Carson is gunning a camper van along a red slash of outback corrugations. Anthills dot the spinifex.  They flit along the hazy edge of her peripheral vision like tombstones.  

So who is Maggie and what is she doing rushing through the Never Never at full speed with this peculiar traveling companion?  And did I mention that a retired police officer may be chasing after her?

She is a very cheerful senior citizen, very glad to be free of her miserable husband.  "This woman is in the driver's seat.  She prides herself on being a glass-half-full kind of gal.  Someone who makes the best of the curved balls life tends to pitch."

All she has to do is find a place to dump David.  And then there are a few other complications...

This story reminds me of one of my favorites from last year, Margaret Maron's "We On The Train!"  They both race along with a breathless energy that conceals what is actually going on.  (But Rogers' story is far more manic.)  Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Miracle on Christmas Eve, by Szu-Yen Lin

"The Miracle on Christmas Eve," by Szu-Yen Lin, in Alfred HItchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2016.

I am not a big fan of locked room stories.  I think I only have only reviewed one here before.  But I liked this one a lot.

Szu-Yen Lin is Taiwanese and his hero Ruoping Lin is as well.  Unfortunately neither the editor's  introduction nor the story itself tell us anything about him except that he will be moderating a panel at a book fair and that he is not surprised when a stranger knocks on the door of his office with a problem.

Oh, I should add that for that panel he is  reading a mystery novel by an author "who specializes in mysteries without crimes," and that of course is called foreshadowing.

Getting back to the knock on the door, the knocker is a grown man named Ko who wants Ruoping to tell him whether Santa Claus really exists.

It's not quite as crazy as it sounds.  When Ko was young his father, a widower, made sure a present from Santa was waiting for him every Christmas morning.  When his schoolmates scorned his belief the father invited them all over on Christmas Eve to be convinced.

And proceeds to reveal a dozen presents inside a locked room, sealed with tape on door and window, after he and the boys slept on the floor outside all night.

The work of Santa or a clever and dedicated parent?  I am sure you can guess but the solution is quite satisfactory.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Last Blue Glass, by B.K. Stevens

"The Last Blue Glass," by B.K. Stevens, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, April 2016.

My fellow SleuthSayer B.K. Stevens has come up with a nice one.  I could say it is the life and death of a marriage as told through a set of blue glasses, and that's true, but I am afraid it makes it sound artsy and experimental. It isn't.

Cathy and Frank buy the set of six blue glasses as they are preparing for their first dinner party.  They are a bit fragile and expensive but Frank loves them and Cathy tends to go along with what he wants, which turns out to be part of the problem. 

The best part of this story is how the personalities of the characters are perfectly illustrated.  The salesmen talk like salesmen, the brother is clearly a petulant jerk, and so on.  Take this scene from that dinner party, when Cathy's mother-in-law has just knocked over the first blue glass, causing it to smash on the floor:

"I don't know why you bought such flimsy things," his mother said, not glancing down.  She salted her potatoes, her chicken, her broccoli, everything on her plate before tasting everything.

What a peach, huh? 

I did not guess where the ending was headed, but glancing back to the start I see it was nicely foreshadowed.  A very good story..

Saturday, April 2, 2016

And the Golden Derringer

I am embarassed to admit I didn't read far enough down the announcement to see that the Short Mystery Fiction Society also announced the winner of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement in Short Mystery Fiction.  Congratulations to Michael Bracken!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Little Big News: Derringer winners!

The Short Mystery Fiction Society has announced the winners of this year's Derringer Awards.  Congratulations to all!



Flash fiction Hero by Vy Kava           

Short story
Twilight Ladies by Meg Opperman        

Long Story
Dentonville by  John M. Floyd        

Novelette 
Driver by John M. Floyd              


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Heathen Springs, by James L. Ross

"Heathen Springs," by James L. Ross, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, April 2016.

Nice private eye-type story by Mr. Ross in his second appearance on this page.

Hugh Brewster is a disillusioned psychology professor who becomes an investigator for a security company.  One of their clients is a movie studio and when the son of a minor star is kidnapped Brewster is sent into the desert where filming had been going on location to try to solve the dilemma.

The local cops aren't much help and the studio boss isn't willing to contribute to a ransom: "I'm not hanging out a sign saying I'm a soft touch."  But the worst part is thatno one is calling with a ransom demand. If they don't want money than all the other possibilities are grim.

The story is good all the way through but what I loved was the ending, a cold conversation between Brewster and his boss that reminded me of Hammett's Continental Op  chatting with the Old Man.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Little Big News: Shanks Goes Rogue

"Shanks Goes Rogue" appears in the May issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, on sale next week.  it is his ninth appearance there, and my 26th.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Perfesser and the Kid, by Roberta Rogow

"The Perfesser and the Kid," by Roberta Rogow, in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, issue 19, 2016.

This story takes place on the day of Nikola Tesla's funeral.  An aging politician decides to entertain the gathered reporters with the true story of the great inventor's first day in America.

We know that Tesla was robbed on the ship and stepped onto dry land with four cents in his pocket.   The official version says that he then met a man on the street with a broken machine and fixed it on the spot, thereby earning his first dollar on these shores.

Our politician-narrator begs to disagree.  He was a newsboy at the time and he tells a very different story involving a pool hall, a gang of street toughs, and Tammany Hall.

My favorite part is a scene near the end when Tesla solemnly pays his debts.  I can only say: I have known people like that.

There is a clever twist at the end of the story.  I enjoyed it a lot.  





Sunday, March 13, 2016

Upon The Stair, by Declan Hughes

"Upon The Stair," by Declan Hughes, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2016.

Last week my choice was about a private eye as bodyguard.  This week it is private eye as social worker / couple's counselor.  Varied juob description these fictional P.I.'s have.

Ed Loy works in Dublin and he hired to keep an eye on Thomas Harrington who has recently become, as Loy puts it, a Famous Irish Writer, and like a number of  others in that category, is having trouble adjusting to it.  His problems invovle booze, reckless behavior, and possible infidelity.  HIs wife wants to know what's going on.

But just about everybody in this story has a hidden agenda.  All except our hero, and he has to figure it out.  A satisfying story.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Jaguar at Sunset, by John Lantigua

"The Jaguar at Sunset," by John Lantigua, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2016.

A nice private eye story by Mr. Lantigua. 

A Brazilian couple named the Mattos led the fight against development in their region and are murdered for it.  Now their daughter Constancia has taken up the cause and is supposed to make a speech in the Everglades National Park in Florida.

The bad guys would like to her silence her too but they know that a political assassination in the United States would cause more trouble than it would end.  But they can give a plane ticket to Constanzia's bitter former lover, and set him loose in Florida.  A lover's quarrel ending in tragedy is no cause for an international incident.  Did I mention he is an expert marksman with a rifle and a bow and arrow?

Connie's new lover contacts Mimi P.I. Willie Cuesta, and Willie, trying to provide bodyguard service on a shoestring, gathers some unlikely allies...

A good tale with a strong sense of place.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Little Big News: Derringer finalists

The Short Mystery Fiction Society has announced the finalists for the 2016 Derringer Awards.  I am more than delighted that one of the stories is by yours truly.  Congratulations to all!

For Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 words)
  • Jack Bates, "The Hard Screw" (Near to the Knuckle, August 6, 2015)
  • Craig Faustus Buck, "Heavy Debt" (Mondays are Murder: Akashic Books, August 10, 2015)
  • Barb Goffman, "The Wrong Girl" (Flash and Bang: A Short Mystery Fiction Society Anthology: Untreed Reads, October 2015)
  • Vy Kava, "Hero" (Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Level Best Books, November 2015)
  • John Weagly, "Trash Pick-Up" (Near to the Knuckle, September 24, 2015)

For Best Short Story (1,001–4,000 words)
  • Shelly Dickson Carr, "Words Can Kill" (Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Level Best Books, November 2015)
  • Nikki Dolson, "Joe Park's Little Girl" (Mystery Weekly, September 7, 2015)
  • Chris Knopf, "Kill Switch" (Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Level Best Books, November 2015)
  • William Burton McCormick, "Pompo's Disguise" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2015)
  • Meg Opperman, "Twilight Ladies" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2015)

For Best Long Story (4,001–8,000 words)
  • Ron Collins, "The White Game" (Fiction River: Hidden in Crime: WMG Publishing, November 2015)
  • John M. Floyd, "Dentonville" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 2015)
  • Katia Lief, "The Orchid Grower" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 2015)
  • Robert Lopresti, "Shooting at Firemen" (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2015)
  • Elizabeth Zelvin, "The Man in the Dick Tracy Hat" (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, June 2015)

For Best Novelette (8,001–20,000 words)
  • John M. Floyd, "Driver" (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2015)
  • Jane Haddam, "Crazy Cat Ladies" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2015)
  • Richard Helms, "Shooting Stars" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September/October 2015)
  • Gordon Hopkins, "Jack Daniels and Associates: The Whiplash Brokers" (Kindle Worlds, March 2015)
  • Travis Richardson, "Quack and Dwight" (Jewish Noir: Contemporary Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds: PM Press, November 2015)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Best is Yet to Come, by Chris Knopf

"The Best is Yet to Come,"  by Chris Knopf, in Eight Mystery Writers You Should Be Reading Now, edited by Michael Guillebeau and Stacy Pethel, Madison Press, 2016.

This is not an anthology of short stories.  It contains interviews, book excerpts, interviews, and a few stories thrown in.  Now on to Mr. Knopf's contribution...

Two paisans, sitting in their favorite Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, are waxing nostalgic.  Bogart laments that today's hit men lack the style of the great mechanics of yesteryear.  His friend Two Step agrees that contract killers just ain't what they used to be.  Relevant war stories are exchanged.  Then other stuff happens.

I saw where this was going, but the perfect last paragraph made it worth the trip.  Very amusing tale.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Being Fred, by Travis Richardson

"Being Fred," by Travis Richardson, in Thuglit 21, 2016.

Pity poor Fred.  He's a nice guy but he happens to share a body with Conner, a hit man for the Russian mob. 

Conner, his alternate personality tells us, is "a bad man who does awful things, but he's not a sociopath.  If he was, I wouldn't exist."

So when Fred, the reluctant coping mechanism, wakes up he always know it means Conner has done something so horrific he can't face it.  Which leaves poor Fred to clean up the mess, sometimes quite literally.

In this case Conner has killed a friend for his boss Vlad.  ("He looks like what you think a Vlad would look like - dark-haired, goateed, and imposing...")   But a piece of jewelry is missing and Fred has to find it.  Which means finding the piece of the corpse it was attached to...

Or as Fred would swear, "Fiddlesticks!"

This story is a lot of fun.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Blue Carbuncle, by Terence Faherty

"The Blue Carbuncle," by Terence Faherty, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2016.

This is the sixth appearance in this space by my former fellow-SleuthSayer, Terence Faherty.  That puts him ahead of all the other writers in the universe.  No doubt he is thrilled.

And this is the third winner in this bizarre series.  You see, Faherty claims to have found Dr John Watson's notebooks, containing the original drafts of the Sherlock Holmes stories, explaining what really  happened.  And they are pretty hilarious.

You may remember that in Doyle's version someone has stolen the precious jewel of the title from the Countess of Morcar.  A plumber is arrested but then Peters, a hotel commissionaire, gets involved in a street fight and ends up with a goose which, turns out to contain the precious bauble.  Now let's look at a passage from Faherty's tale:

    "Until now," Holmes added as he tossed the paper aside.  "The question before us is how the stone got out of the jewelry case and into the goose."
     "Excuse me for saying so," Peters interrupted, "but who gives a tinker's tintype?  We don't need to explain how it got in the goose to collect the reward."
    "What was I thinking?" Holmes said.  "Right you are.  Case closed.  Drinks all around."

Which might have been an amusing place to end the story, but Faherty has other, uh, geese to roast.  In fact he is about to skewer one of the great mystery tales of all time, and it is not by Doyle.  I will stop right here except to say the whole piece is very funny and clever. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Devil You Know, by Jas. R. Petrin

"The Devil You Know," by Jas. R. Petrin, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2016.

This is Petrin's third appearance in this blog.

Reading a new adventure of a favorite character fells like meeting up with an old friend.  But some friends are definitely better in fiction than in real life.

Which leads us to Leo "Skig" Skorzeny, a tough-as-nails loan shark in Halifax, Canada.  Skig is too old to be doing this stuff, and he has an "imp" in his guts he expects will kill him, if someone else doesn't do it first.

Among his enemies are the Halifax police who have "found" a block of cocaine in his ancient smelly Crown Vic - in an earlier story it spent a few hours in the harbor - and they offer him a deal: they won't press charges if he helps them find a truckload of old furniture that was stolen while being shifted from police headquarters.

Skig has good reason not to trust the cops.  As his friend Creeper says about the sergeant running the operation: "When she says win-win, she really means a double win for them.  Nothng for you."

But Skig figures out that what they are really after is not the old desks and tables but some filing cabinets that were in the truck.  And if he can find them - and determine which file they are desperate for - he might get out of the mess with a whole skin.

As usual, a good story from Petrin.


 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Agatha Award nominees

Congratulations to all the Agatha Award nominees!  Here are the short story finalists:

Barb Goffman, “A Year Without Santa Claus?” (AHMM)
Edith Maxwell, “A Questionable Death” History& Mystery, Oh My (Mystery & Horror, LLC)
Terri Farley Moran, “A Killing at the Beausoleil” (EQMM)
Harriette Sackler, “Suffer the Poor” History& Mystery, Oh My (Mystery & Horror, LLC)
B.K. Stevens, “A Joy Forever” (AHMM)