Sunday, January 20, 2019

"Bhut Jolokia" by Rob Hart

Medium Short, March 18, 2016

Though this story is available online, I read it in print as part of Take-Out and Other Tales of Culinary Crime, Rob Hart's just-published collection from Polis Books, because the intersection of food and crime fiction has intrigued me since the first Spenser book I read in 1993.

Many of Hart's stories bridge the distance between protagonist and reader with techniques such as present-tense prose. "Bhut Jolokia" combines present tense prose and second person voice, as if the reader is the protagonist being addressed. I found it eerily effective, Hart implicating "you" directly in a peppery plot against egregious office lunch thief Scott Olson.

Hearing Rob read at a Noir at the Bar event in Manhattan moved me to buy his first novel, New Yorked. Don't be surprised if "Bhut Jolokia" makes you hungry for Take-Out.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

"Flight" by Kris Calvin

Unloaded Vol. 2: More Crime Writers Writing Without Guns, ed. Eric Beetner, Down & Out Books, 2018, p. 119–127

From Down & Out's second anthology benefiting States United to Prevent Gun Violence comes the story of Hannah, anxious to catch a flight with baby Sam in tow. As they face each each hurdle of airport security, more of their background is revealed, and while guns don't factor, but what does is horrific in its own right. I rooted for their escape. Well told by child advocate Calvin.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

"Lessons" by Jeremiah Healy

Private Eyes ed. Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, Signet, February 1998, p. 294–314.

For years, the day after Labor Day was traditionally my first day of school. Apropos of that, this story finds the late Jeremiah Healy's Boston P.I., John Francis Cuddy, hired by cancer-stricken World War II veteran-turned-teacher Joseph Vogel to find his thirty-five year-old son, Keith.

After hearing Joseph's other children have died, Cuddy takes him at his word he wants to make amends with Keith before it's too late. Cuddy discovers Keith is a drug dealer and reluctantly tells Joseph, who delivers a surprise of his own.

Friday, August 24, 2018

"Maui: The Road to Hana" by G.M. Malliet

G.M. Malliet
photo by Joe Henson
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September-October 2018, p. 125-133

Thinking of Hawaii as Hurricane Lane approaches the islands, I read G.M. Malliet's latest EQMM story having ridden along the titular, twisty road.

The protagonist and her husband, retiring executive Geoff, book the trip partly to relieve Geoff's stress and partly to relive the last time they drove the road, on their honeymoon.

Readers get an early hint that Geoff's wife may intend to kill him, but she must keep the vacation pace—not appear in a rush—allowing Malliet to evoke the atmosphere and local color of Maui and the Road to Hana.

Friday, July 27, 2018

"The Last Man I Killed" by Margaret Maron

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2018, p. 101-103

Reading the narrator's history of murder in her disarming, evasive tone, it's easy to picture her dodging suspicion, making each kill seem either an accident or suicide. Even the story's title deceives. Well done by Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Maron.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"Post No Bulls" by Marvin Kaye

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2018, p. 73–84

In this new Rex Stout pastiche by Wolfe Pack charter member Marvin Kaye, the corpse of widely-despised police lieutenant George Rowcliff is FedExed to Nero Wolfe's New York brownstone, addressed to his legman, Archie Goodwin. Offended, gourmand genius detective Wolfe vows to identify who sent the body as well as who killed Rowcliff.

Stout's stories of Wolfe, Archie, and friends spanned from 1934 to 1975. Though the world changed around them, the company of characters didn't age, making them adaptable to generation after generation of fans. For example, nods to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan set "Post No Bills" in the late 1990s.

Monday, June 25, 2018

"Hotel Story" by Sigrid Nunez

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2018, p. 46

The narrator of Sigrid Nunez's one-page story piques readers' curiosity about the guests staying in rooms above, below, and to either side of them at hotels. Though almost every paragraph recounts an experience at a different hotel, the story as a whole works to unsettling effect, culminating with the narrator seeing a murder victim wheeled past her.

Food for thought if you're on or planning a vacation, this one's good for a chill.