Monday, June 27, 2016
I believe this is the first story from Mystery Weekly to make my weekly best. It was also their free sample of the week, which you can get sent to your email.
The story is a little thing, flash fiction or close to it, more anecdote than full-blown story. But it's interesting. containing a character sketch (the narrator), nice language use, and something to think about.
Here's how it starts:
I only know three ways people ever get eaten by bears. There could be others, but I haven’t run across them.
The gentleman meditating here is a small-town coroner in West Texas, and as you may have guessed, he is dealing with the results of one of those three methods. The victim is a meth cooker who apparently lost a fight with a colleague, which led to him starting a new career as bear chow.
Our coroner explains what he can tell from the partial remains that have been brought in by the violently ill deputies. Then he ponders the unfairness of the future that is sure to be waiting for the bear.
And that's about it. Like I said, it's slight, but it hangs together, and is definitely worth a read.
Monday, June 20, 2016
This is the second appearance on this page by Craig Faustus Buck.
Amnesia appears in fiction more often than it does in real life. But then again, so do dying message clues, femme fatales, genius detectives and a lot of other tools of the trade. The trick is what use you make of the item.
Buck has taken us to 1960, East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. Our protagonist has been shot in the head, a grazing blow that vaporized his memory - or most of it. Now the cops want to know what happened, and the deadly secret police, the Stasi, are lurking on the sidelines, up to God knows what.
Our hero speaks German and English. Which is he? He has the name Slade tattooed on his arm. Is that his name? Will he figure out who he is before the shooter realizes he is alive and makes another try?
A fine piece of work.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
This story is set in the world of prohibition in one of the fancy backwoods hotels where gangsters could relax until the heat cooled down. Our narrator is the owner of Hotel Hatteras in Michigan, called Hotel Hate by her rotten husband who deserted her years ago. Now he's back and trouble follows...
A nice tale with plenty of period touches.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
My fellow SleuthSayer Barb Goffman has contributed a nice tale to Malice Domestic's latest anthology, which contains stories related to conventions, conferences, and suchlike scenes of murder and mayhem. Oops, I should have mentioned that this is her second appearance in this column. I like to keep track of that.)
Including Malice International, the mystery conference to which narrator Eloise Nickel has been invited for a lifetime achievement award. Should be a thrill but the guest of honor happens to be Kimberly, a former protege who had gone on to fame and "dropped me like a bloody knife." Kimberly takes gleeful opportunity to do it again in an article published just before the conference. She compares her own suspenseful novels to Eloise's old-fashioned cozy books, which some the elderly readers still apparently like - Well, you get the idea. It ain't pretty.
Eloise starts plotting revenge. Not murder, of course. Just some dreadful pain and misery for her rival, to be delivered at the conference.
But, alas, that doesn't seem to be as easily done as said. People keep rescuing Kimberly, purely by accident. What's a frustrated revenge-planner to do?
The main reason this story made my Best Of column was the surprise - not twist -ending. A nice little trick provided a satisfying conclusion.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
I would say any writer who appears in this space twice in a year can think he's having a good year. That's not ego on my part; I would be happy if any non-relative thought I scored twice in one spin around the sun.
Mr. Bracken is making his second appearance at Little Big Crimes this month.
This story is about Samuel "Sugar" Cane, a Texas thug who has worked, since he was a crooked high school football player, for a crime boss named De La Rosa. As he goes about his daily work of collecting debts for the big man he meets a woman whose mother used to be his lover. Hmm..
A popular topic in writing circles is first person versus third. This story would be much less powerful if it were in first, or if we could tell what'd going on in Sugar's head. We ave to figure it out, which keeps the suspense high.
This story reminds me of Michael Koryta's "A People Person," which I wrote about here back in 2013. Both are about a thorough-going baddie who finds himself unexpectedly facing a line he may not be willing to cross.
And both are terrific stories.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
My fellow SleuthSayer Art Taylor scores in the first issue of this new mystery fiction magazine, although a purist might say this one is more science fiction than mystery. Actually, it's both.
The narrator is a salesman, trying to convince a family to buy a restoration service. You see, they take a DNA sample and occasional brain scans, and then, if heaven forbid, you should die violently, they can whip up a clone of you in under a month, and family bliss is restored. Only violent deaths; the ethicists forbid interfering with natural exits. But, you know, there is so much violence these days.
The wife is all for it. The husband (and from the salesman's point of view, they have and need no other identities) is extremely dubious. Can our hero close the sale?
Here is our salesman explaining his work:
Discretion was key. And indirection. Euphemisms helped. You didn't talk about death at all, didn't even use the word, much less talk explicitly about the man who was shot in the eye while walking to lunch, or the woman who was tortured for hours before she was killed, or the children who...
No. Let the prospective clients put it together on their own.
I thought I saw where this story was going and I was totally wrong, which pleased me greatly.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
The June issue of AHMM is awfully good, making it hard for me to pick winners. That's a better problem than the occasional weeks when I can't find a story I enjoy, so I won't complain.
This marks DuBois' sixth appearance in this space, tying him with Terence Faherty for first place.
It's 1946 in Boston. Billy Sullivan is a private eye with a guilty conscience because, as an Army MP, he spent most of the war out of harm's way, while his brother died in the infantry.
His client, Ronny Silver, is also having trouble with dealing with his war memories. But he recently spotted someone he knew from his time in Europe, a war correspondent who had promised to send the G.I.s photos. Ronny thinks if he can get those pictures he won't forget his buddies who died. Can Sullivan help him find the reporter?
If you have read any private eye fiction it won't be a spoiler if I tell you there is more going on than what appears on the surface. Interesting twists, interesting characters...