Sunday, January 13, 2019

Treasure island, by Micah Perks

"Treasure island," by Micah Perks, in Santa Cruz Noir, edited by Susie Bright, Akashic Press, 2018.

I admit I may be prejudiced about this story because I just finished watching The Kominsky Method on Netflix and in my head I can hear Alan Arkin reciting the whole tale. 

In any case Perks has come up with something delightful and hilarious.

Mr. Nowicki is, he tells us, "a seventy-two-two-year-old retired middle school assistant principal who has lived in Grant Park for forty years."  He is furious about what is happening in his neighborhood so he has gone to a website called Good Neighbor!(tm) to report what he sees.

And he has strong opinions about that.  For example he has a problem with his neighbor who is (the internal quotation marks are his): "a 'writer' who 'works' from home.  ('Writer' always takes morning tea on his porch in his pajamas and at five p.m., takes cocktail on porch, still in his pajamas.  You've probably seen him on your way to and from actual work.)"

Then there is a young woman, possibly a thief, possibly something else, who claims to be named Jim  Hawkins.   Takes Mr. Nowicki a while to figure out why. 

One more quote from our hero, after he has seen "three apparently Hispanic males, ages approximately eight or nine years old," putting trash in said neighbors "Little Library."

I descend, which takes some time due to bum hip, retrieve plastic bag and 'trash grabber' ($6.47, Amazon Prime, you can read my review, three stars because the sharp tongs are dangerous), exit house, open gate, cross street to nieighbor's 'Little Library" (a glassed-in cabinet painted a glaring aqua, plunked onto a post).

Glad you're taking an interest, Mr. Nowicki.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Milquetoast, by Olaf Kroneman

"Milquetoast," by Olaf Kroneman, in  The Strand Magazine, October 2018/January 2019.

Chances are you have met someone a bit like Colin Anderson.  Chances are you didn't enjoy it much.  He's the kind of middle-aged guy who invites you to dinner and makes you look at pictures of his championship college lacrosse team.  Oh joy.

Colin is now a successful surgeon but he isn't interested in working hard.  He prefers to spend his time being tennis and golf champion at the country club, and spending his wife's money.

But when she finds out what - or who - he is spending the money on, his life takes a sharp sudden turn. 

This is a clever story that involves a phenomenon so strange I had to look it up to see if it is real.  It is.  The delightful twists keep coming straight to the end.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Faith, by Stuart Neville

"Faith," by Stuart Neville, in Blood Work: Remembering Gary Shulze: Once Upon A Crime, edited by Rick Ollerman, Down and Out Books, 2018.

The day I lost my belief was the same day Mrs. Garrick asked me to help kill her husband.

That's the first sentence of this story.  If it doesn't make you want to read the second, my word, why are you reading fiction at all?

The narrator is an Irish clergyman, five years a widower. Mrs. Garrick's husband was brutally maimed in a terrorist attack.  Our protagonist tries to comfort her and one thing leads to another.

But it isn't the request that he help murder Mr. Garrick that causes the clergyman to lose his faith.  It is his conclusion that "There is no sin because there is no God.  There is no God because there is only us and our impulses..."

In that case there is nothing to keep him from killing the invalid and living happily ever after with the widow.  What could possibly go wrong?

A tight and surprising little tale.

 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Devil's Island, by Mensje van Keulen

"Devil's Island," by Mensje van Keulen, in Amsterdam Noir, edited by Rene Appel and Josh Pachter, Akashic Press, 2019.

To get the Full Disclosure bit out of the way: Akashic Press sent me this book for free, for which I am grateful.  One of the editors, Josh Pachter, is a friend of mine.  Now on to the main course.

And what a treat it is.  The narrator is trying to be helpful to his friend, Jacob, who is becoming a real pain.  Jacob's girlfriend has left him and he can't seem to get over it.  On one bad night he even says "I'd sell [the devil] my soul if he'd make Martha come back to me."

Later that evening they are standing among the cigarette puffers outside a pub when a stranger comes out of the smoke and asks Jacob for a light.  He says that he prefers the old-fashioned wooden matches called lucifers.  "I like the smell of them, though, that momentary blast of sulfur..."


This is a story built on details, cleverly used. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Seven Fiancees, by David Housewright

"Seven Fiancees," by David Housewright, in Blood Work: Remembering Gary Shulze Once Upon A Crime, edited by Rick Ollerman, Down and Out Books, 2018.

Ah, a private eye story.  Pretty charming one, too.

Looking back, I probably should have let the woman shoot the tuba player, because God knows, he had it coming.

Nice opening sentence, that.  P.I. Holland Taylor is in a jazz club when a young woman named Virginia tries to shoot the tubaist. Taylor prevents that. Seems tuba guy is her fiance.  Seems she just found out he is also engaged to six other women.

Virginia's lawyer hires Taylor to contact the six other ladies, looking for mitigating circumstances that may help reduce his client's sentence. (Seems pretty damned mitigated to me already.) Taylor meets them, each a different personality with a different reaction to the discovery of their true love's philandering.

There is a climax of sorts, but as is so often true in life, the true joy is in the journey.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Character is Everything, by Jon McGoran

"Character is Everything," by Jon McGoran,  in Unloaded Volume 2, edited by Eric Beeetner and A.Y. Aymar, Down and Out Books, 2018.

And today we are in science fiction territory.  At least, I hope it remains SF for a few more years.

Roscoe Boyer is an endangered species.  He is the last employed writer in the world.  

Roscoe had started out writing honest-to-God books, but he'd changed with the times -- video games, social media micro shorts, story interactives.  Finally this. 

This is creating character outlines for robots.  And now Roscoe is being fired from even that job. Ah, but Roscoe has a trick up the old sleeve...  A clever story.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Pan Paniscus, by James W. Ziskin

"Pan Paniscus," by James W. Ziskin, in Unloaded Volume 2, edited by Eric Beetner and A.Y. Aymar, Down and Out Books, 2018.

The theme of these collections is simple: crimes without guns. Certainly this story has plenty of plot.  Here is the first sentence:

The adolescent bonobo named Bingo escaped from the zoo in the early hours of an October morning.

Animal lovers may be glad to know that Bingo is not a crime victim.  Human beings are not so lucky.

Bingo is spotted on the property of Mitch and Fiona Hirsch.  Mitch is a bleeding heart liberal who annoys his law firm by working on pro bono cases.  His wife Fiona is the daughter of wealth and doesn't seem to do much except drink her way through book club meetings.  And then there is Evelio, their gardener.  He is, not surprisingly, illegal.

When Bingo shows up unexpectedly all their lives are changed dramatically, forever....