Wednesday, October 16, 2019

"None of This Is on the Map" by Richie Narvaez

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November/December 2019, p. 59-69

Weightlifter Eulogio Vega, computer tech for an international PI firm, is grieving the deaths of his parents when he takes on a freelance case from Brooklyn congresswoman Camilla Santiago to find her husband. Vega easily traces a flight the husband booked to Puerto Rico. Further locating and bringing him back prove more difficult with Hurricane Maria's devastation and Vega's reluctance to send off his parents' ashes.

I've known Richie Narvaez since 2006, when I submitted to his website Asinine Poetry. We share many interests including crime fiction, comic books, and Star Trek. As fiction editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site, I helped published a 2007 Vega story, "El Bohemio", which is now available in the ebook collection Roachkiller and Other Stories.

I'm glad to spread the word about Richie's EQMM debut. I particularly appreciate its depiction of the hurricane's aftermath and Vega's personal stake in traveling to Puerto Rico.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

"Left for Dead" by S.J. Rozan

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, July/August 2019, p. 31–33

This deceptively short story offers a full picture of nine-year-old dyslexic Joey, who's lived with his loving Aunt Amy and abusive Uncle Ted for three years, since his mother's death. Enhancing the picture, Rozan describes strategies Joey has been taught to cope with dyslexia, strategies kept secret from Uncle Ted.

Perhaps the twist, this isn't a story of Joey getting revenge on Ted. Ted causes his own demise through lack of knowlege, yet there's no cosmic justice, either. Never learning how wrong he is, Ted's last, fatal act is in spite of Joey. Short but by no means simple.

Also this summer, Rozan returned to her Lydia Chin and Bill Smith P.I. series with Paper Son from Pegasus Books.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"Boys Will Be Boys" by Marilyn Todd

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May/June 2019, p. 191-92

You may have noticed I'm a fan of very short stories. The shorter the story, the more punch each word packs. I'm also a fan of dialogue, and Marilyn Todd's "Boys Will Be Boys" is all dialogue without attribution, presenting David Andrew Tyler and his domineering mum in slices of life, a macabre Mother's Day tale, if you will.

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.