Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Double Deck the Halls" by Gretchen Archer

Henery Press, 2017

The annual Bethesda, Maryland convention Malice Domestic has announced its 2017 nominees for the Agatha Awards, honoring traditional mysteries as typified by the works of Agatha Christie, containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence. An April 2018 vote of Malice attendees will determine the winners. In the meantime, as part of the announcement, the Best Short Story nominees are freely available online.

Gretchen Archer's nominated story takes place in the world of her Davis Way series. Davis is the lead undercover investigator for a Mississippi resort and casino, but this particular story is told by Davis's grandmother, Dee, who finds herself captured by a Santa's elf who has strapped a bomb to Davis's friend, Bianca.

Archer's previous short stories have gone into the viewpoints of various characters in Davis's circle, and Granny proves quite the character, resourcefully trying to save Bianca while a captive herself.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bill Crider (1941-2018)

Our own Bill Crider died yesterday, having battled cancer since July 2016. From his brother, Bob, who's been updating his Facebook friends:

My brother, Bill Crider, passed away this evening at 6:52 PM CST, Monday February 12, 2018. It was a peaceful end to a strong body and intellectual mind. Services pending and will be announced later.


I chatted briefly with Bill at Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto, where he was his usual good-natured self on panels. We met in person at my first Bouchercon, 2008 in Baltimore. Meanwhile, virtually, he always commented on my birthday blog posts. The smallest gestures can be the kindest.

I regret we won't share another con, but his wisdom, wit, and friendship will remain with me and all of us here at Nasty. Brutish. Short.

Monday, February 12, 2018

"The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie's Place" by Debra H. Goldstein

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May-June 2017

The annual Bethesda, Maryland convention Malice Domestic has announced its 2017 nominees for the Agatha Awards, honoring traditional mysteries as typified by the works of Agatha Christie, containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence. An April 2018 vote of Malice attendees will determine the winners. In the meantime, as part of the announcement, the Best Short Story nominees are freely available online.

The narrator of Debra H. Goldstein's nominated story was a nine-year-old boy when his mother found "Mr. Johnnie, [a] bigwig at one of the banks and a friend of most of the city's politicians," stabbed to death in a bedroom she was meant to clean. From the boy's innocent perspective, readers infer where his mother worked and why it burned down, an engaging approach.

Friday, February 09, 2018

"The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn" by Gigi Pandian

Henery Press, 2017

The annual Bethesda, Maryland convention Malice Domestic has announced its 2017 nominees for the Agatha Awards, honoring traditional mysteries as typified by the works of Agatha Christie, containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence. An April 2018 vote of Malice attendees will determine the winners. In the meantime, as part of the announcement, the Best Short Story nominees are freely available online.

Gigi Pandian's nominated story balances homage to Christie, "locked room" tradition, and contemporary sensibilities. Fresh off the events of her fifth series novel, The Ninja's Illusion, treasure-hunting historian Jaya Jones and her friend Tamarind Ortega are snowbound in Denver. They share a taxi with famous—and infamous—thriller author Simon Quinn to the driver's recommended lodgings, the "haunted" Tanglewood Inn.

The owner, Rosalyn, tells of a Mr. Underhill, driven mad by a now-collector's edition of Murder on the Orient Express, still in the inn's library, locked under glass. In the middle of the night, Simon cries out and is found dead in the library. With no outward signs of trauma, he appears to have died in similar fashion to Mr. Underhill. With no outside help available until morning, it's up to Jaya to investigate.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

"Whose Wine is It Anyway?" by Barb Goffman

50 Shades of Cabernet: An Anthology of Wine Mysteries ed. Joe Coccaro, Köehler Books, 2017

The annual Bethesda, Maryland convention Malice Domestic has announced its 2017 nominees for the Agatha Awards, honoring traditional mysteries as typified by the works of Agatha Christie, containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence. An April 2018 vote of Malice attendees will determine the winners. In the meantime, as part of the announcement, the Best Short Story nominees are freely available online.

In Barb Goffman's nominated story, Myra, retiring after forty years as a legal secretary, is frustrated training her attractive, flighty replacement Jessica. Myra goes from passive-aggressive to actively aggressive when her friend and boss, Douglas McPherson, asks her to put on her own retirement party, having forgotten himself.

Myra changes a memo she'd been writing to Jessica, deemphasizing a note about Douglas's wine allergy. She assumes Jessica will miss the note and give Douglas a mild breakout. However, Douglas's allergy is more severe and Jessica more competent than they seem.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

"A Necessary Ingredient" by Art Taylor

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea ed. Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks, Down and Out Books, 2017, p. 208-239

Last week, the annual Bethesda, Maryland convention Malice Domestic announced its 2017 nominees for the Agatha Awards, honoring traditional mysteries as typified by the works of Agatha Christie, containing no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence. An April 2018 vote of Malice attendees will determine the winners. In the meantime, as part of the announcement, the Best Short Story nominees are freely available online.

At the outset of Art Taylor's nominated story, narrator Ambrose Thornton declares he is not a detective. Pressured by his wealthy, locally influential father to do something with his time, he's taken a correspondence course in investigation and set up an office, but the case in this story is his first.

Esmé, owner of a new eponymous restaurant down the street from Thornton's office, hires him on the rumor someone in town is growing tonka beans, aromatic South American beans banned by the FDA for their deleterious effect on the liver. Esmé, however, asserts one would have to consume a preposterous amount to bring on said effect. She wants in on the source to use the beans in her recipes.

I had read a few of Taylor's Del & Louise stories, about a convenience store clerk who runs off with a criminal she senses has nobler ambitions. "A Necessary Ingredient" is told in a similarly pleasant, conversational style so its well-placed plot twists sneak up.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

"Child's Play" by Bill Moody

Murder...and All That Jazz, ed. Robert J. Randisi, Signet, 2004, p. 95–108

From a newspaper article, tenor sax jazz musician Wilson Childs discovers his old friend, pianist Quincy Simmons, missing twenty-five years since skipping bail, has been found living at a homeless shelter. Haunted by the night he and Simmons were pulled over and Quincy took the fall for Childs' weed and his own gun, Childs tracks down the reporter, hoping to reunite with his friend.

Jazz drummer and author Bill Moody died last month, aged 76. This story stands out to me in that it's more hopeful than much of the genre. The initial report of Simmons alive was better news than I expected to get.