Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Sorry this is late; I have been on vacation. That might also explain why I did not read any new stories this week I liked enough to review. As I have done before when this happened I am going to review a classic story, one of my favorites.
I first read this story in the 1970s, published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, with a stupid title I won't repeat here. (Editor Frederic Dannay was famous for deciding he knew more about titles than the authors of the stories he published.)
This is a spy story and a great suspense tale. The nameless protagonist is a spy in a hostile country, also unnamed. It is implied that she is working for a Western democracy. And she is in big trouble.
She has just posted an incriminating report when she realizes the police are watching her. At any moment they will scoop her up. torture her, interrogate her, and kill her.
But there is one fragile reed she can cling to. If the bad guys don't think she has seen them, they will keep following her, hoping she will lead to useful information.
If she runs, they'll grab her. If she tries to get on a bus, they will collect her. All she can do is keep walking, and hope desperately to find a way out...
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
This is the second appearance in this space by Chen.
Imagine being an illegal immigrant in this country.
Now imagine you have murdered your sister's abusive husband.
Now imagine that said husband was a gangleader, so now both cops and mobsters are chasing you and your sister.
Sounds like enough trouble for one man to bear?
Now imagine your sister has Alzheimer's...
And you think you've had a bad year... A very moving and suspenseful tale.
Monday, November 5, 2018
To the best of my knowledge I have never read any work by the late William E. Wallace, reporter and mystery writer. But I have read enough of this book to get some sense of what his writing may have been like. Pretty noir stuff.
The narrator of this tale, Michael Roth, also used to be a reporter. Or maybe we should say he is currently a reporter without a job, struggling to survive as a freelancer, writing Internet clickbait. (See the title of this story.)
He gets a call from somebody named Brack who used to be a hitman. Would he like to meet and talk about Brack's illustrious career?
He would. But Brack, as it turns out, has another, more dangerous offer to make...
Monday, October 29, 2018
We writers prattle on endlessly about the importance of the right opening, but sometimes they matters more than others. Sometimes it would be a completely different story without the proper beginning.
The last time I saw Jenny, she was lying unconscious in the sandy hollow at the foot of Danagher's Head...
That's the first sentence. The rest of the paragraph describes Jenny's appearance, and ends with a "sudden hoarse shout as someone found us."
So as the story progresses we have a good idea of what the climax will be. We are watching for clues as to what causes Jenny's fate.
The narrator explains: "That was long ago, in the summer of 1961. I was nine years old at the time..." This is Ireland and she belongs to a wealthy family with a summer home on the coast. Jenny is a naive country girl, and more fun than all the governesses the girl has ever had.
But something results in innocent Jenny crashing off that cliff. Was the narrator's distant but chivalrous father up to no good? Was her sinister mother jealous? What about Jenny's mysterious boyfriend who supposedly gave her the beautiful necklace?
Maybe you will guess the answer. I sure didn't.
Monday, October 22, 2018
I should say I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. Thanks much.
Some stories start off so strongly that I am rooting for them. This one started so slowly I didn't really expect it to go anywhere. Obviously I was wrong.
The narrator is a Hong Kong native, a gay man, who has just returned after breaking up with his lover in England. Something else happened back there, something bad, but we won't get the details for a while.
He is living on Cheung Chau, a small island off the main part of Hong Kong. For some reason a lot of people go there to die. His parents have made a lot of money investing in the resulting depressed prices: "Investing in Suicide Island took a certain sangfroid unique to the Chinese. [Mom] was a bank manager. Death could be lucrative."
Then there are his two uncles who are doing well, but the source of whose money is not clear. And a young woman he meets drowns herself.
How does all this connect to our protagonist, and his very much alive ex-lover back in Britain? All shall be revealed and it shall be surprising...
Monday, October 15, 2018
This is the second story by R.M. Greenaway to make this page in two months. She seems to be having a good year.
"The collection is called City. That's all. City. Lot of structure, not a lot of people shots, 'cause that's been done to death. But they're in there, like puzzle pieces, just part of the chain-link right? Or the asphalt, or the puddles. Except for on the cover I've got an old guy..."
The speaker is Blaine and as you may have guessed he's a photographer. Perhaps a bit obsessive about it. And one morning, just at sunrise, he's out snapping pictures at the waterfront and he find a very fresh corpse. Of course he knows he should call 911, but the lighting is perfect, and how long will it last? Surely it won't hurt if he just changes lenses and takes a couple of artful frames...
And then the dead man twitches.
I'm going to stop here. This is a masterful story and I don't want to give anything away.
Monday, October 8, 2018
This is the fifth appearance in this column by winner of the Golden Derringer Award and fellow SleuthSayer Michael Bracken. It is mostly a very nice character sketch.
Graham Sugarman lives in Quarryville, a "dried-out scab of a town" in West Texas. The highlight of his week is Tuesday morning when the bookmobile arrives. Because he is only allowed to check out five books per visit he takes the heftiest ones available.
When asked if he has any plans he replies: "Same as always. I plan to read." And that's pretty much all he does.
You might get the feeling Mr. Sugarman is not quite normal. You're right. The reason for that turns out to be quite interesting.
But his very regular life is interrupted when the librarian who drives the bookmobile is murdered, stopping his service...
The third act is not as strong here as the earlier ones, but Mr. Sugarman is an interesting and believable character.