Tuesday, September 12, 2017

e-Golem by SJ Rozan

Okay, so SJ is known to all mystery readers and has won every prize for mystery writing available except, ironically, The Rozan*. But this story is really good. I mean it takes place in a used bookstore - what more dangerous setting for a writer can there be? Every cliche is primed and ready for use. See also: writers writing about writer's block.There is also the Book of Ancient Wisdom trope.

So you might start to wonder if the story is merely a pile of dusty cliches. It's not... Unless you think a pile of dust is always a pile of dust. And to think that, you'd need to forget your Genesis story... The Bible one, not the Star Trek one.

The story starts with the dust of the bookstore and ends with the dust of the bookstore. What happens in between, well, let's just say you'll like it.

Find it in the current Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

* She was a lock for it earlier this year when I made it up, but she missed a filing deadline. Ah well, there's always next year...

Friday, September 01, 2017

"Come Back Paddy Reilly" by Con Lehane

You read Con Lehane novels for the poetry of language and for the completely human characters. You read this short story in the current Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine for the same reasons.

Paddy Reilly is a Bronx-Irish cop working undercover when he comes into contact with Nancy, a woman who used to be a girl he knew way back when. As in other Lehane stories, when two people collide, a heart has to break somewhere. The fact that it's a "Black Mask" entry for EQMM should also tell you something about how this one will play out.

As a writer, I'm in awe of Con's ability to quickly draw a character who appears to be every bit human.

If you're looking for longer form work from Lehane, try his "Murder at the 42nd Street Library."  

Friday, December 30, 2016

"A Real Work of Art" by Gwenda Bond

Yesterday via Twitter, I learned Gwenda Bond was writing YA novels with DC Comics' legendary Lois Lane as protagonist. The concept alone was enough to convince me, but Gwenda also happens to have two short stories available for free right now on Amazon Kindle, so I downloaded and read both. The one I'm choosing to review involves the more clear-cut crime.

At her latest of many schools as an Army brat, sixteen-year-old Lois takes an elective art class. Around the studio are reproductions of masterpieces, and the teacher, Mr. Jacques, only instructs his students to pick a masterpiece and try to imitate it. Lois happens to recognize Mr. Jacques' signature on the reproductions as belonging to a fugitive forger. With a little help from an online friend she knows only as SmallvilleGuy, but largely on her own, Lois investigates and ultimately alerts the police.

Bond's writing reminds me fondly of Erica Durance's supporting performance as teenage Lois on TV's Smallville. Here, though, Lois is the unmistakably the lead.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"A Perfectly Ordinary Case of Blackmail", by A.A. Milne

A.A. Milne is, of course, best known as the creator of Winnie the Pooh and the other inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood, but he dabbled in mystery fiction from time to time. His novel The Red House Mystery is well-written, thought the plot is somewhat pedestrian. (Alexander Woollcott famously called it one the of the three best mysteries of all time, which suggests to me that Woollcott only read three mysteries.)

As "A Perfectly Ordinary Case of Blackmail" opens, Sir Vernon Filmer, a politician of long service and some repute, as well as a rather superior manner, arrives at the office of his very proper solicitor, Cedric Watherston. Filmer has a problem - as the title of the story indicates, he's being blackmailed. Watherston, quite naturally, wants to know none of the particulars. He does know a man who specializes in such cases, another solicitor whose morals are rather more flexible than Watherston's own.

(Watherston would normally never have associated with such an individual, but he'd been very useful when they were both prisoners of the Kaiser in 1917.)

Scroope was, in fact, a very useful indivdual, and soon he had the story out of Sir Vernon. Many years before, before the Great War even, a man had mistaken Sir Vernon for his wife's lover and viciously attacked him. Sir Vernon fought back and had killed the man, after which he and the man's body were discovered by Sir Vernon's friend. It looked damning. The fight had been brutal, and the wounds inflicted on the dead man could easily have been interpreted as deliberate murder.

Being a professional in such matters, Scroope cheerfully begins making his preparations, and with the clever way he works it, the guilty party - or parties - are guaranteed to get what they deserve.

This was a delightful comic story. Milne sketches the characters quickly but clearly, and his light touch lends an air of humor to the whole enterprise. The ending may not be strictly legal, but Scroope (and the reader) will no doubt find it just and proper.

I read this story in Masterpieces of Mystery: The Golden Age, Part 1, edited by Ellery Queen. I've read a couple of other volumes in the series (out of 20), and I'm working my way through The Golden Age, Part 2 right now. They're all excellent, and generally can be found at reasonable prices.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bill Crider Update

Last week, along with the mystery community, we learned our fellow blogger Bill Crider was diagnosed with an aggressive form of carcinoma. Next week, Bill will try to get into M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Bill's few, occasional reviews here are a small sample of what a great fan and supporter of short stories he is. The mystery genre and the short form are lucky to have him, and he will continue to inspire as much as his work does.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Death of a Feminist" by Sarah Weinman

From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, June 2016

This short story showed up in my current Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and I admit I read it first because I've met Sarah at Bouchercons, other conventions, book launches, etc. Not to mention her huge internet presence. I suspect she's reviewed one of my books, and I don't doubt "mildly entertaining" was in there somewhere (possibly after "could have been..."). But enough about me...

The story features a main character who is very much connected to all things internet. And that character's mother. A mother who, it appears, is in a wheelchair and never leaves the building. If there's any legwork to do, the narrator does it. So, echoes of Nero Wolfe, no?

In this case, a famous feminist is being cyber-stalked. Vicious and anonymous attacks via the internet, texts, etc. This is a part I would have liked to hear more of - it seems to me that the cyber-bully is a new and improved bully: you don't have to be on the same continent to drive someone insane with threats, slanders, etc. The schoolyard bully at least risks getting punched in the nose (though their calculations about who to pick on help them avoid this outcome), and they risked being ostracized if the bullying backfired in any way.

Still, the relationship between the narrator and her boss, Ms. Gallant, is the main draw here. That and, when you get to the end, (which I don't intend to spoil) the, possibly, psychopathic reasons for the "death of a feminist". And how much her death was motivated (if that's the right word - don't want to blame the victim at all) by her attempt to live her life and to change and grow as a person.

Anyway, go read it, then we'll talk... Then I'm sure Ms. Weinman will have another story to talk about featuring the lead characters - they deserve a series, I think...

Monday, October 26, 2015

NBS Special Report: Flash and Bang: A Short Mystery Fiction Society Anthology

Cover ©2015 Untreed Reads Publishing
Cover design by Ginny Glass
The Short Mystery Fiction Society formed in 1996 to promote mystery & crime short fiction. Graham, Bill, Steven, and I are members.

On October 8, Untreed Reads published the Society's first member anthology, Flash and Bang, in paperback and ebook.

SMFS member and Untreed Reads editor-in-chief Jay Hartman called for unpublished mystery, suspense, or thriller stories containing either a "flash" or a "bang".

Limiting submissions to one flash (300–1,000 words) and one short (1,500–3,000 words) per member, Jay received more than 300.

His selection of 19 stories ranges from historical to contemporary, cozy to hardboiled, amateur and animal sleuth to police and private detective:

  • "The Conflagration at the Nameless Cotton Gin" by Bobbi A. Chukran
  • "The Perfect Crime" by Herschel Cozine
  • "Don't Let the Cop into the House" by O'Neil De Noux
  • "Fireworks" by P.A. De Voe
  • "Rosie's Choice" by John M. Floyd
  • "The Wrong Girl" by Barb Goffman
  • "Murder on Elm Street" by Su Kopil
  • "Silent Measures" by B.V. Lawson
  • "Don't Be Cruel" by JoAnne Lucas
  • "A Simple Job" by Andrew MacRae
  • "Arthur" by Sandra Murphy
  • "Thor's Breath" by Suzanne Berube Rorhus
  • "Beautiful Killer" by Judy Penz Sheluk
  • "A Day Like No Other" by Walter A.P. Soethoudt (translated by Willem Verhulst)
  • "The Raymond Chandler Con" by Earl Staggs
  • "The Bag Lady" by Laurie Stevens
  • "Fractured Memories" by Julie Tollefson
  • "The Fruit of Thy Loins" by Albert Tucher
  • "Sierra Noir" by Tim Wohlforth

Through October 31, Flash and Bang is part of Untreed Reads 30% Off sale on mystery and horror titles.