Thursday, September 07, 2023

"The Final Final" by Jerry Kennealy

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine September/October 2023, p. 111–117

In 1970, San Francisco police inspector Johnny O'Rorke is on leave recuperating from a gunshot wound. Paralyzed real estate tycoon David Lambert hires O'Rorke to tail his wife Katie, whose behavior has recently changed. Lamenting his physical predicament, the result of a fall mountain-climbing with Katie, David has no ill will toward his wife. He simply wants to know if "she's okay."

Following her for two days, O'Rorke takes a brief chance to speak with Katie, not betraying David's concern, yet finding himself unable to sway her from her own perilous plans.

"The Final Final" very finely focuses on the Lamberts' feelings of futility and what they do in response, then compounds their feelings with O'Rorke's and readers' by extension. Powerful and haunting.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"Tag, You're Dead" by John Lutz

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May/June 2021, p. 34-39

Pleased to receive the latest issues of AHMM and EQMM wrapped in protective plastic, I had to read the AHMM cover story first, the final bow for soft-boiled St. Louis P.I. Alo Nudger, author John Lutz having died January 9, aged 81.

"Tag, You're Dead" finds Nudger forced out of his office, the rent tripled. He's commiserating with Danny, who has upscaled his doughnut shop to offset the rent increase, when they witness the discovery of a dead body believed to be that of a famous street artist.

As editor Linda Landrigan mentions in the issue's intro, the story shines laying out elements I only later realized were clues. Rest in peace, Mr. Lutz.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Christmas in July at Smashwords

Cover ©2015 Untreed Reads Publishing
Cover design by Ginny Glass
In 1996, members of the listserv shortmystery-l renamed it the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Changing hosts with the times, it remains a free discussion promoting the form. Many NBS reviewers are members.

In October 2015, Untreed Reads published the first Society member anthology, Flash and Bang, featuring nineteen original stories. This whole month, the Flash and Bang ebook is part of Smashwords' Christmas in July sale. Normally $4.99, coupon code SSW50 makes it $2.50.

If you prefer a physical book, Untreed Reads president and Society member Jay Hartman adds the paperback and large-print paperback of Flash and Bang are 15% off retail price every day when purchased directly from Untreed.

Hope you enjoy, spread the word, and pave the way for further anthologies.

Monday, February 10, 2020

"Active Shooter" by Jack Bunker

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2020, p. 86–88

Despite a bullet costing him the power of speech, the narrator conveys by internal monologue he's been mistaken for the active shooter of the title. An unarmed former assistant football coach, he's innocently returned to the school that fired him to pick up his daughter for the weekend. He continues casting himself as the central victim of a compelling noir, but we can't buy his narrative as the whole truth. A few clues show the story isn't all about him.

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.